Twenty-three years ago, the United States became the first country in the world to adopt legislation banning discrimination against people with disabilities by passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has since become the international gold standard for the fair and equal treatment of persons with disabilities. Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we commit to expanding the reach of disability rights by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The CRPD matters. It matters because 50 million disabled Americans, including 5.5 million veterans, deserve the same rights abroad that they enjoy at home. It matters because blind veterans traveling abroad have had their guide sticks taken away in airports and amputees have been told to store their artificial limbs in overhead bins. It matters because of Dan Berschinski, an Afghanistan war veteran who lost both of his legs when he stepped on an IED, who explains that, “the advantages that we take for granted here at home that allow people like to me to live fulfilling, independent lives don’t exist in much of the rest of the world.” It matters because there are countries where disabled children are treated like second-class citizens from the moment they are born. This disabilities treaty matters because it will have a real impact, not only for disabled Americans traveling and living overseas, but also for the millions of people across the world who aren’t afforded the rights and protections we give our citizens.
By ratifying the disabilities treaty, we gain so much and lose nothing – it has no effect on U.S. law and doesn’t add a penny to our budget. At the same time, it gives us leverage to push other nations to adopt standards equal to our own. This treaty is about taking what America has done so well for 23 years and getting other nations to follow our lead.
Last year, the U.S. Senate fell five votes short of ratifying this treaty. Five votes short of helping the millions of disabled Americans who receive second-rate rights when abroad. Five votes short of helping hundreds of millions of people across the world who have been written-off as imperfect and unequal. Today, on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let’s resolve that we will ratify the CRPD in this Congress.
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