I wrote earlier in the summer about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Essentially, it has been ratified by 134 nations, but not yet by the United States of America. A vote was held on the U.S. ratification of this treaty in the Senate late last year. While 61 Senators voted in favor of ratification, this was five votes less than needed for the required approval.
So, by way of updating those who read this, you should know first that the CRPD is now simply known as the “Disabilities Treaty.”
Also, it’s important to me that you understand the purpose of the CRPD. It is “to promote, protect and insure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
Keeping this purpose in mind, take a minute to remember that some 45% of our men and women who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan over the past 20-plus years, before and after 9/11, have acquired a disabling condition as the result of their service. This generation of heroes deserves the opportunity to live and to work wherever they choose.
Now, opponents of the CRPD in the Senate maintain that we don’t need to sign on to it because we have laws here such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While we do have these important laws in place, I contend that the world we all live in is getting smaller every day.
Today, some 6 million U.S. citizens live and work abroad. Moreover, their numbers are growing dramatically—increasing sevenfold since 2008 (Source: TIME magazine, January 31, 2013). It is reasonable to believe that this trend will continue. None of us can predict the future.
One last point that must be made is that Americans happen to live in the greatest country on the planet. Let’s not allow a small minority of our Senators in Congress defeat a treaty which can open up employment and other opportunities to individuals with disabilities worldwide. Take a few minutes to contact your two Senators today to let them know that you support the CRPD and that you would like for them to support it, too.
It’s more than an issue of just doing the right thing. It could become the treaty that helps more Americans, including disabled veterans, obtain jobs abroad in the years ahead.
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee
Want to know more about the benefits to veterans of U.S. ratification of the Disabilities Treaty? Check out the State Department’s new fact sheet.