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Action and Inaction Juxtaposed: Dec 3rd International Day of Persons with Disabilities

boy with disabled legs does handstand on beach

While the UN convened today representatives of the global disability rights communities, NGOs, private sector and related colleagues to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD; http://www.un.org/disabilities/), the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations caused deep disappointment by its inaction toward ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) despite unprecedented bipartisan support urging positive action. UN panelists documented the progress made to date on the implementation of the UN CRPD by the 151 countries that ratified the treaty, focused on the theme of human rights context of accessible ICT as a tool and strategy for ensuring societal inclusive development, unveiled G3ICT and ITU Model Accessible ICT Policy Report, and emphasized integration of the CRPD tenets into the UN's post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Ultimately, participants in today's UN event offered emerging societal inclusion practices in a 21st technology-focused era to ensure the desired poverty reduction for low-and middle-resourced as well as developed countries' citizens considered the most vulnerable and 'the poorest of the poor'--1 billion persons with disabilities.

The lack of US Senate ratification action leaves the US out in the cold as only ratifying states may participate in leadership activities related to UN CRPD action. The US signed the treaty in 2009, with President Obama's support and that of Presidents HW Bush, W Clinton, GW Bush and J Carter, Sens. Tom Harkin and John McCain, among many others from both sides of the aisle past and present,  considered by human rights proponents as an unusual action. The US Congress has hesitated and rejected past participation in UN human rights treaties due to Congressional sovereignty concerns that often seemed unfounded and isolationist. In the case of CRPD, over 800 organizations, 20 large veterans agencies, major US corporations, and the US Chamber of Commerce, with US International Council on Disability (USICD) and Disability Rights Education Fund (DREDF) speaking for the coalition at several Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings over two years, strongly urged that the US demonstrate its well-deserved disability rights leadership. US disability laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act served as a model for the CRPD's development and are not threatened by CRPD ratification; the action would facilitate US participation in developing improved practices collaboratively with the global disability rights communities and open global access for US citizens with disabilities including wounded warriors.  USICD's press release (found at http://www.usicd.org/template/index.cfm) states: 'Today on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, American disability leaders express outrage over the Senate's inaction on ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  As the end of the 114th Congress nears, it has become clear to disability leaders that the Senate will not pass the resolution for ratification of the CRPD this year...Marca Bristo, retiring President of the United States International Council on Disabilities and long-time leader of the coalition for ratification of CRPD, said: "Unfortunately, the Senate chose to let politics, lies and misinformation rule the day instead of the rights of more than one billion of the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations.  We deeply appreciate those Senators, both Democrat and Republican, who did the right thing and stood with the disability community on this important treaty...."