The UN International Disability Rights Treaty: Keep the Momentum Going

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Dear Access Living Community,

Before the Fourth of July Break, Amber Smock wrote with the good news that Senator Kirk indicated that he now supports the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (Treaty). Kirk’s endorsement of international disability rights is great news as the disability community expects that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will soon reintroduce the treaty for ratification. As that process moves forward, Senator Kirk’s support will (as the letter below states) “reawaken the bipartisan spirit of disability issues and renew the discussion of how this treaty will bring important protections to people with disabilities worldwide.”

With Senator Kirk in support of Treaty Ratification, now is the time to build upon that victory. Below is a Letter to the Editor authored by Marca Bristo that ran in today’s Chicago Tribune. The letter recognizes Kirk’s good work and seeks to build more bipartisan support for international disability rights.

Here are a few things you can do to keep pushing the treaty forward:

1. Send Senator Kirk a message thanking him for support of the treaty. Please make a phone call or send an email with a quick message of appreciation. The message could be as simple as, “Hi, I am a resident of Illinois. I want to express my gratitude to Senator Kirk for supporting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. With Kirk’s support the door is now open for the bipartisan support of this treaty that will bring important protections to people with disabilities around the world.”(
(See right column for contact information)

2. Send a note to the Opinion Editor of the Chicago Tribune to thank her for running the letter and that indicates how important it is that Senator Kirk and other Senators support the Treaty. This will help raise more aware about the Treaty and will encourage the Tribune to editorialize about the Treaty in the future.

This note could say “Thanks for running the letter about the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Senator Kirk is a great signal of bipartisan support for the treaty.”

Contact the Chicago Tribune Voice of the People Editor:

Now is an exciting time for members of the community that are working on ratification of the treaty. Please take a little bit of time to be a part of that excitement by making a phone call, sending an email, and writing a note to an editor.


Gary Arnold


Letter to the Editor in the Chicago Tribune
July 10, 2013

Disability rights

As a person with a disability, former Sen. Bob Dole understands independence and empowerment in a personal way. He led critical negotiations that garnered the bipartisan support necessary to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 2012, 16 years after retiring, Dole returned to the Senate floor and urged his former colleagues to support the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Despite support from the disability community nationwide, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and all major veterans service organizations, the Senate failed to ratify the treaty by a narrow margin.

The disability treaty will allow the U.S. to play a key role in developing disability rights worldwide without having to change any laws or add any additional costs to its budget. The treaty will ensure that Americans who travel and study abroad have the same access they enjoy at home.

Despite the critical need for the treaty, there is fierce opposition, particularly from a network called the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The association built unfounded myths around the treaty, including that it would change home-schooling laws and even take American children with disabilities away from their parents. Those false claims were used to elicit thousands of calls to the Senate offices and to drive a partisan wedge into a traditionally bipartisan issue.

Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has indicated he will soon reintroduce the treaty. When the treaty returns for another vote, Dole may not make another trip to the Senate floor, but he will continue to fight for the treaty's passage.

I am inspired to hear that Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will assume Dole's place to defend the rights of people with disabilities.

Kirk's voice on this issue will reawaken the bipartisan spirit of disability issues and renew the discussion of how this treaty will bring important protections to people with disabilities worldwide.

— Marca Bristo, president, U.S. International Council on Disabilities and CEO, Access Living Chicago


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