NEW YORK, New York — The United States signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in July 2009 but has not ratified it. Despite having almost received enough votes for ratification in 2012, the following year it failed to reach the Senate floor. Senator Tammy Duckworth urges the U.S. to ratify the CRPD for the greater good of the international disabled community.
Senator Tammy Duckworth
A champion for U.S. ratification of the CRPD is Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient, a passionate disability rights advocate and an amputee. In 2013, then Rep. Duckworth urged the United States to ratify the CRPD, citing the document’s international significance in committing countries toward dismantling attitudinal and environmental barriers that prohibit disabled people from accessing equal opportunity.
Research shows that there are approximately one billion people living with disabilities around the globe, which is equivalent to 15% of the world’s population. Almost all of the people affected by disabilities live in developing countries. The CRPD emphasizes that “mainstreaming disability issues” is an essential strategy for sustainable development and for eliminating global poverty. Thus, it is important to take a look at some of the reasons why Sen. Duckworth urges the United States to ratify the Convention.
Sen. Duckworth has urged the U.S. to ratify the CRPD to strengthen U.S. leadership in advancing disability rights worldwide. When speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, she began by stating that CRPD ratification is integral to the global leadership role of the United States in setting the Gold Standard for disability access. Sen. Duckworth emphasized that by not ratifying the CRPD, the U.S. “legitimacy to lead other nations is weakened.” This is an unfortunate consequence as the United States has the ability to help provide guidance and knowledge for the treaty’s implementation.
Furthermore, the senator has urged the U.S. to ratify the CRPD because the nation can “stand as an example for those with disabilities around the world, ” as it has done in the past with the landmark passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The ADA was the model and inspiration for the draft of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Sen. Duckworth highlights as an example of the significant impact U.S. leadership can have in inspiring people around the world to “fight for justice and fairness” for disability communities around the world.
Sen. Duckworth has urged the United States to ratify the CRPD to address the lack of accessibility abroad. She has repeatedly emphasized the difficulties disabled U.S. citizens such as herself face when traveling due to inaccessibility challenges that local people face constantly. Sen. Duckworth believes that the U.S. can help address this by exporting policies and technologies that help make societies accessible to people with disabilities.
It is a fact that most countries lack the necessary domestic legislation to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination and uphold their right to equal participation in all areas of society. For this reason, Sen. Duckworth describes that often when U.S. citizens with disabilities travel abroad, they find themselves without necessary accommodations and are “mistreated and rejected” for being disabled. She has shared stories of disabled veterans having their assistive devices taken away from them due to a lack of knowledge about disability. She also addressed why inaccessibility abroad limits the educational, professional and recreational opportunities of disabled people.
Impacts for the Disabled Community
Additionally, the senator explains that a lack of accessibility abroad negatively impacts the lives of current service members and their families. In many cases, once soldiers are injured, they are unable to leave their bases as the lack of accessibility in countries where they serve poses a significant barrier to their ability to travel freely. These are the same environmental challenges that locals who have disabilities encounter on a daily basis when seeking employment, academic or other opportunities. Overall, these factors contribute to the high number of disabled people living in poverty globally.
In other cases, service members who have children with disabilities cannot bring their child to the assigned location due to inaccessibility abroad. Often education for that child is of particular concern as disabled children around the world continue to be left out of school due to discrimination, inaccessible buildings and lack of available accommodations. With the ratification of the CRPD, Sen. Duckworth believes this enables “service members to deploy to more locations.” She also believes that such international exchange can help dispel negative views of disability internationally.
These reasons are part of why Sen. Duckworth urges the United States to ratify the CRPD as it will help improve the lives of the international disability community as a whole.
– Emely Recinos