Monday, August 12, 2013

It's time to Ratify the Disability Treaty

Three years ago, I travelled around the world with University of Delaware students comparing how culture, income and religion impact people with developmental and other disabilities. We travelled to UAE, Ghana, Nepal and Thailand. During our six week trip, we spoke with people with disabilities and visited schools, advocacy groups, and service programs.  What we discovered is that many people with disabilities around the world are denied fundamental human rights and dignity that we often take for granted here in the United States.  Many of our brothers and sisters around the word are improverished, discriminated against, and denied educational and employment opportunities.

This is why I cannot understand those who oppose the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), or Disability Treaty.  People we met abroad could also not understand why our country has not yet ratified the treaty. I was embarrassed to have to confirm that our country had not.  The countries we visited varied widely in their economic well-being, religions, and attitudes toward people with disabilities -- but all had ratified the Treaty and were proud to say it. 

In Accra, Ghana, advocates told us about their difficulties changing the mindsets or attitudes shaped by simple lack of awareness about people with disabilities.  They shared that many in their country still believe, for example, that children with intellectual and other disabilities are "children of God" and should be removed from the community. One child in this advocate's community had been "left by the river to be eaten by a python"! (see more about our visit to Ghana)

These African advocates also told us that they had developed their own disability rights law in 2006. However, when we were visiting, they were still trying to publicize the new law and get the legislature to provide the resources necessary to implement its provisions.  The international treaty, signed by Ghana in 2007, is helping them bring attention to the urgent needs of the 5 million Ghanians with disabilities.  Ghana formally ratified the Treaty on Augus 21, 2012 affirming its commitment to respect the human rights of all its citizens, including those with disabilities.

It's time for the United States to do the same! Although ratification does not create new laws in America, it will result in a multitude of positive results for both Americans with disabilities as well as U.S. business at home and abroad.  In addition to reaffirming the traditional American values of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity, and providing a forum to advance these values worldwide, ratification also serves to encourage and guide other parties to the treaty, benefits U.S. business, and ensures accessibility in the workforce for the estimated 1 billion individuals with disabilities around the world. 

I have contacted my Senators to urge them to ratify the treaty. Have you?

Meeting members of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled in 2010

Making friends at the market in Accra

Visit with Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah of "Emmannual's Gift."
For more informtion about the Disability Treaty, contact the U.S. International Council on Disabilities at or
My organization, AUCD, also has fact sheets, talking points and an action center to easily write to your senators using a pre-written sample letter.

We have also set up a new Facebook page to encourage discussion and create momentum around U.S. ratification this Fall!/RatifyCRPD

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Travelling home to a blizzard

It was a race against mother nature trying to get home last night.  But I made it.  And so did all of the other around the world travellers.  Several found alternate flights closer to their homes but most of us took a flight into Newark, NJ since our original flight to Phila was cancelled. 

Imagine coming from this:

To this:

My driveway

my front yard

In a span of 24 hours and after 5 weeks in tropical weather conditions!

Our flight from Honolulu left on time (11:20).  We had a 4 hour layover in Denver then we were to arrive in Newark at 6:30 p.m.  I reserved a ticket on Amtrack to DC on the last train: 8:23 scheduled to arrive in DC at 11:23 p.m.  However, while in Denver I heard reports that Amtrack closed its routes South of New York and with up to 30 inches of snow now expected in the DC area, would the Metro be running?  would I be able to get a taxi in Silver Spring even if I reached it?  I would have been stranded!

I think my lucky silk scarf given to each of us when we left Nepal by our friend Tek helped us.  A nice tailwind brought us into Newark 40 minutes earlier.  Kara, another student, and I (plus I nice German woman who needed our help) ran to catch an earlier train at 6:43. We made it just seconds before it departed!  This got us into DC at 9:50.  Catherine and Carter braved the severe conditions to drive to the metro to get me.  I could barely get through the snow with my bag and it was cold!!!

But, I made it! and i am happy to be home snuggled with my family to watch the snow fall.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday: Last day in Hawaii

Waiting to go to the airport for our 11:20 p.m. flight to Denver.  We woke up today to find out that our original flight to Phila. was cancelled because of the pending snowstorm on the East Coast.  We are now diverted to Newark, NJ and scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m.  I then plan to take a train to D.C. and metro home to Silver Spring.  I will not arrive until mid-night. 

Of course I didn't let this bad news spoil my last day in O'ahu.  After Laura and I contacted all the students and made new flight plans, my friend Jeremy took me to Hanauma Bay to go skin diving.  It was a beautiful day.

Hanauma Bay. Can you see the coral reef?


After skin diving, Jeremy drove me along the coast of Kailua Bay and we stopped for fish and chips at a local restaraunt.

I'm off the airport now.  I can't wait to see everyone so I'm hoping I will not be stranded in Denver or Newark!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday in O'ahu: Final Presenations and Cruise

The students gave their final reports today.  Set up in teams of 4-5, they reported on their experiences in Ghana, UAE, Nepal, and Thailand comparing and analyzing their experiences in relation to how culture, religion, and political systems impact people with disabilities.  The students gave their oral reports to their peers as well as to facutly and staff of the Center for Disability Studies (CDS) at the University of Hawaii.

CDS staff also presented to the students on newborn screening, response to intervention initiatives, and Pac Rim cultural issues related to disabilies. 

Dr. Robert Stodden, Director of the Center on Disability Studies gave opening remarks.

Norma -Jean Stodden gave an overview of the Disabilities Studies program; Jean Johnson provided information on newborn screening; Steve Brown talked about cultural differences in Hawaii and the Pacific Rim and how those cultural differences and isolation of the islands impact services for pwd; Kiriko Takahashi also reviewed Pac Rim programs; Leslie Lopez and Kati provided an update on their Federally funded project related to culturally responsive "response to intervention."

I was very proud of our students.  They demonstrated through their oral reports how much they learned during the trip.  Each team provided 30 minute oral presenations and then took questions.
Kathleen, Kelly, Meghan, Jessica, and Katie report on the impact of poverty on disabilities in the countries we visted.

Monique, Kera, and Illana

Katie, Emily, Julie, and Amy present on Awareness across the countries

After a full day of presentations, we were ready for our final excursion -- a sunset catamaran cruise.  From 5 - 8 p.m. we cruised by Waikiki Beach and watched the sun set and the stars come into view while we ate Hawai'in fare.

skyline of Waikaki Beach

Jon and Amy looking just like the famous scene on "Titantic", right?

Erik, Laura, Michael, and Rachel

dancing on the catamaran after sunset
Me on the boat with the view of Diamond Head behind me-- the volcano crater we climbed yesterday.

I think everyone had a lot of fun.

Tomorrow is our last day here.  We leave the campus at 9:00 p.m. for an 11:30  p.m. flight.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday in Hawaii

Tomorrow is the big day.  Our students will present in teams on thematic topics.  The topics include how poverty, awareness, political systems, religion, and inclusion in these countries impact people with disabilities.

Students spent a large part of the day working on their team projects

Staff and students from the Hawaii Center on Disability Studies are coming to hear their presentations.

It rained hard much of the day which made it a little easier for the students to concentrate on their work instead of thinking about snorkeling or beaching opportunties!  By the end of the day, the weather had cleared enough to enjoy sunset activities outside.  Michael, Laura, Erik and I decided to hike up the Diamond Head volcano.  The crater was formed about 300,000 years ago.  The hike up is 3/4 mile and takes about 45 minutes.  The 360 degree view of the island of O'ahu is worth the effort.

Erik and Michael looking out over Waikiki Beach from atop Diamond Head

Only two more days until I see my two precious sons.  Alec and Carter sent me pictures of themselves sporting the Nepali T-shirts I sent them. 

Carter (5) in his Nepali hat and hand-sewn dragon shirt

Alec (9) in his Nepali dragon shirt

Alec and Carter, I hope you are enjoying the snow and get a day off from school tomorrow!  See you soon! Love, Mom

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday in Hawaii

Last night after a day at the beach, we met up with Michael, Laura and Erik at Duke's, a popular restaurant on Waikiki Beach. There, we learned that several students had gone sky diving during the day.  I can't wait to see pictures.
Laura, Erik, me, and Michael on Waikiki Beach

This morning we met with the students for class early in the morning at the Center for Disability Studies and assisted them as they began to prepare their final reports that they will present orally on Wednesday.  After reviewing some of their proposals, I am very proud and excited for them. 

Reviewing written reports during the lunch break

After work, Tammie took me to a popular swim training spot for triathletes.  There were so many swimmers on the same 600 meter measured swim, I bumped into others just like in a race.  When I finished, we watched the sun set before heading home.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday in Hawaii

I slept most of Saturday away, unfortunately.  I tried to get back on this state's schedule but intstead was up most of the night and slept most of the day!  So I used my insomnia time to catch up on U.S. politics.  I listened to the President's State of the Union Address via podcast, which I thought well done, very strong and straight forward.  I was even more impressed by his two hour meeting with House Republicans.  I thought his mastery of responding to their direct questions calmly and intellegently with just the facts was brilliant.  In fact, I thought as I listened to his sharp responses, that we may have elected one of the most intellegent individuals on this planet as our president.  I still can't figure out why Massachusetts voted for an individual that would not continue the legacy of their most beloved Senator -- Edward Kennedy!  How could they elect someone that will not vote for the health and long term care bills for which he dedicated much of his life?  Incidentally, that piece did make news around the world. We read about it in Nepal.

In any case today, Sunday, I managed to wake up at a decent hour and Tammie and Jeremy took me to see their favorite beach: North Shore.  They both said that it is usually calm swimming water in the winter but today the waves were so high, the lifeguard declared the beach a non-swimming beach unless you were an experienced surfer or swimmer with fins.  In fact, we watched a lifeguard bring someone in, who could not do so, by himself.  We did get in the water a little, though, and it was relaxing to finally be on a sunny beach.

A scene from the North Shore

Enjoying a relaxing day on the beach with Jeremy and Tammie

Tammie said my trip would not be complete without getting shaved ice from Matsumoto.

They also indulged the tourist by stopping the car so that I could take a picture of the pineapples growing in the ground.  Did you know it takes 18 months for one pineapple to ripen?

Tonight we are going out to dinner at Waikiki Beach.  By now, Dr. McCormick should have arrived in Hawaii from Delaware.  We are meeting early in the morning for class with the students at the Center for Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii (one of our UCEDDs).