Washington, D.C.-- A Senate hearing and press conference convened by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) were held today to urge the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
More than five experts from the Senate and federal government testified at the hearing stating that ratification requires no change to current U.S. laws carries no cost and is in the best interest of the United States.
"U.S. ratification of the CRPD will improve physical, technological and communication access outside the U.S., thereby helping to ensure that Americans -- particularly, many thousands of disabled American veterans -- have equal opportunities to live, work, and travel abroad," said Sen. McCain reading from a statement submitted by Sen. Bob Dole who was unable to attend the hearing.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Eve Hill, Department of Justice, and Judith Heumann, the State Department’s Special Adviser for International Disability Rights also testified before the Committee conveying the importance of ratification. Richard Thornburgh, former Attorney General of the United States, John Wodatch, former Chief of the Disability Rights Section for the Department of Justice, and John Lancaster, retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant and USICD Board Member also voiced their support in testimony before the Committee.
Inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the CRPD protects the rights of people with disabilities around the globe. Ratification of the treaty guarantees protection for Americans with disabilities that work, travel and study abroad including thousands of students studying abroad, those working internationally and military families.
At the press conference, Senators McCain and Durbin affirmed their support for the CRPD and urged their colleagues to ratify the treaty. Also speaking at the press conference were USICD President Marca Bristo and Raymond Kelly, Director of Legislative Affairs for Veterans of Foreign Wars. "The ratification of the CRPD is in the best interest of the U.S. and its 54 million Americans with disabilities," said Marca Bristo. "It extends the same protection to Americans with disabilities who travel or live outside the U.S., as we have currently in the U.S."
Veterans groups were well represented at the press conference as the treaty is supported by all the major veterans organizations including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion because so many in the military and their families are directly affected by the ratification of the CRPD.
Ratifying the treaty will promote U.S. business interests because those countries that ratify the treaty will need the technological advances and innovation of American products that help meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons for ratification is that global leaders have always looked to the U.S. as a leader in the disability rights movement. Without ratifying this treaty, the U.S. is not eligible to serve on the Committee that oversees implementation of the treaty abroad nor can the U.S. join important discussions about the treaty with the 116 other countries that have already ratified it.
USICD joins with Sens. McCain (R-AZ), Durbin (D-IL), Moran (R-KS), Harkin (D-IA), Barrasso (R-WY), Coons (D-DE) and Udall (D-NM), 165 disability organizations and 21 veterans' organizations in urging the Senate to ratify the CRPD. USICD believes ratification of the CRPD demonstrates the U.S.' commitment to international disability rights and positions the U.S. as a leader on this important global issue.
The Senate is expected to vote on the treaty at the end of July, coinciding with the 22nd anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The U.S. ratification of the CRPD will continue our country’s distinguished tradition as a world leader for people with disabilities as evidenced by the ADA,” said former congressman from California, the Honorable Tony Coelho, lead sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and current USICD board member.
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