Contact: Kevin Locke, U.S. International Council on Disabilities
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Second Hearing on Disability Treaty
This morning, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the second of two hearings on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international disability treaty that was inspired by U.S. leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities worldwide. The Disability Treaty is a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world, modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. In spite of widespread support from veterans service organizations, faith organizations, business, and the disability community, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, the treaty fell just five votes short of ratification in a controversial Senate vote last December.
Activists representing the broad coalition in favor of the treaty were present at the hearing to show their support. Supporters also delivered to the committee a petition with over 68,000 signatures from across the country, a number that continues to grow.
Marca Bristo, President of the US International Council on Disabilities was energized by the turnout at the second hearing and encouraged by the substantive discussion of the treaty. Ms. Bristo remarked, “I’m thrilled and gratified that we have had such a robust turnout for this hearing. Those present today represented the strength, diversity, and commitment of our community. Our coalition reflects America and the millions of Americans with disabilities, professionals, veterans, and religious and civil rights organizations who both need and want the Disability Treaty to be ratified. I would like to thank Secretary Kerry and Chairman Menendez for their continued leadership and support on this crucial treaty.”
All of those present voiced the hope felt by many in the disability, civil rights, veteran, business, and faith communities that the U.S. Senate would take this rare second chance to do the right thing and vote to ratify the treaty. Witnesses speaking on behalf of the treaty included Secretary of State John Kerry, Frances W. West, Worldwide Director of IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility Center, and C. Boyden Gray, attorney and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I still believe what I believed the first time – that ratification of the Disabilities Treaty will advance core American values, expand opportunities for our citizens and businesses, and strengthen American leadership. And I am still convinced that we give up nothing by joining but get everything in return. Our ratification doesn’t require a single change to American law, and it won’t add a penny to our budget. But it will provide the hook we need to push other countries to raise their laws and standards for the protection of people with disabilities to the standard we set at home under President George H.W. Bush and Republican Leader Dole when we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Frances W. West, Worldwide Director of IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility Center, said “As with many other societal issues, the U.S. has served as a model for the rest of the world. Ratifying the CRPD is the next logical step in our journey towards full societal inclusion of Americans with disabilities. It will also preserve our leadership role in promoting the rights and employment of persons with disabilities worldwide, and create new global market opportunities for U.S. businesses.”
C. Boyden Gray, attorney and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union said, “The concepts and principles that were developed during the Reagan Administration and then codified in the ADA during the Bush 41 Administration are now at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The U.S. delegation that worked at the UN during the Administration of President George W. Bush made sure that the new Disabilities Treaty followed the time-tested approaches of American disability law. The Disabilities Treaty is the next logical step after the ADA.”