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 http://www.usicd.org or http://www.disabilitytreaty.org
 
My organization, AUCD, also has fact sheets, talking points http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=853 and an action center http://www.aucd.org/template/capwiz.cfm 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 https://www.facebook.com/#!/RatifyCRPD

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