Bob Dole, Tony Coelho: Why we must ratify Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities

12/03/2012 11:24 AM

12/03/2012 11:25 AM

It could happen to you. Whether it be from a car accident or from an injury sustained while serving this great country, your life, your mobility and your perspective could all be changed in an instant. Although we’re from different ends of the political spectrum, the two of us share a few things in common: We both became disabled as adults, went on to serve in Congress, and share an unflappable support for the national and international rights and protections of people with disabilities.

Twenty-two years after one of the proudest moments in our careers – the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) – this important bipartisan legislation continues to support the independence and dignity of millions of Americans living with disabilities.

During this Congress, the United States has a rare opportunity to share our disability-rights commitment with other countries by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD provides a framework for countries to enact and enforce legislation that recognizes the rights of all people with disabilities and is based on our own ADA. It adopts the basic principles of American law that we pioneered through passage of the ADA: equal protection of every person under the law, nondiscrimination, the fundamental importance of independent living, and the right to make basic choices about our own lives. By ratifying the treaty, the U.S. Senate will stand up for the equality and dignity of people with disabilities around the globe, just as Congress did for Americans in 1990.

To date, 124 countries have ratified the CRPD. U.S. ratification has strong bipartisan support in the Senate and is supported by more than 300 disability organizations, 21 veterans organizations, and more than 30 religious and interfaith groups. Ratification does not require changes to laws in the U.S. and would not require any new budget costs. Ratification would signal to the world that the U.S. is committed to international standards for disability rights and will play a leadership role in implementation of the treaty obligations.

But most important, ratification is in the best interests of the United States, and will benefit people with disabilities in our country, and the American business community. American businesses will benefit economically from CRPD implementation because it will encourage the adoption of U.S. business’ innovative technology to improve accessibility around the world. It’s no surprise then that the CRPD is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The CRPD promotes an accessible environment for Americans who work, travel and study abroad. Our brave service members returning from abroad with disabilities should not be denied career opportunities in the global economy.

Some in the Senate have stepped forward with concerns about the treaty. Fortunately, the misgivings of these critics already have been addressed by the Senate’s adoption of a series of conditions, called reservations, understanding and declarations. These 13 conditions protect U.S. sovereignty, ensure parental rights as they have been developed in the U.S., and recognize the treaty as a nondiscrimination instrument, similar to our own ADA.

Now, it is essential that the Senate support ratification of the CRPD. We may not have another opportunity in our lifetime. We must reaffirm common values of equality, access and inclusion for all individuals with disabilities.

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