Disability Rights Advocates Urge Ratification of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


Washington, DC – Today at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” experts and interested parties from government and civil society expressed strong support for Senate ratification of the treaty.  The Convention is an international agreement for the protection of the rights of individuals with disabilities, which sets broad goals of autonomy, equality, acceptance, and accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

“Ratifying the Convention would strengthen our hand as we push for higher standards internationally—standards to which all of us should aspire,” said Committee Chairman John Kerry. Senators Tom Harkin and John McCain joined Senator John Kerry in voicing support for the Convention, and Senator Robert Dole submitted a written statement in favor of ratification (read by Senator McCain). 

Below are excerpts from witness testimony, which can be viewed in full at www.foreign.senate.gov.

TOM HARKIN, CHAIRMAN, U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS

“By ratifying this convention, the United States will be reaffirming our commitment to our citizens with disabilities.  Americans with disabilities, including disabled veterans, should be able to live, travel, study and work abroad with the same freedoms and access that they enjoy in the United States.” 

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 JOHN MCCAIN, SENATOR, U.S. SENATE

“It’s not an accident that literally every veterans organization in the country supports this legislation…This treaty is probably more important today in the world, perhaps than it’s been the past.”

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 ROBERT DOLE, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, U.S. SENATE

“Now is the time to reaffirm the common goals of equality, access, and inclusion for Americans with disabilities – both when those affected are in the United States and outside of our country’s borders.  I urge you to support U.S. ratification of this important treaty.”

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 JUDITH HEUMANN, SPECIAL ADVISOR FOR INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY RIGHTS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE:  

“Ratification is good for America and good for Americans.  It will provide the United States with a critical platform from which to urge other countries to improve equality of individuals with disabilities, including Americans who travel or live abroad, and including children with disabilities, whose plight is particularly neglected in many parts of the world.”

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 EVE HILL, SENIOR COUNSELOR TO THE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:

“With the ratification of the Disabilities Convention, we will greatly enhance our capacity to influence other countries to move towards the vigorous, effective standards we have set at home. In turn, as other countries move forward, American veterans, business people, retirees, students, tourists, active-duty military, and others will be able to enjoy the same kinds of accessibility and nondiscrimination overseas that they currently enjoy in the United States.”

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RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES AND OF COUNCIL, K&L GATES, LLP: 

“Ratification by this body would mark a major step forward in the effort to end discrimination and to promote the rights of as many as one billion men, women and children with disabilities around the world who seek vindication of their pre-eminent human rights in an ever-challenging world.”

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JOHN WODATCH, FORMER CHIEF OF THE DISABILITY RIGHTS SECTION, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:

“The time for Senate action to ratify this treaty is now…It is time for the United States to reposition itself as a world leader to help bring down these walls of exclusion for all nations around the globe and help make the world accessible for Americans with disabilities, including our veterans, and for American multinational businesses.”

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JOHN LANCASTER, 1ST LT., U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET), RETIRED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL ON INDEPENDENT LIVING:

“In 2012, 22 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is unacceptable that many Americans with disabilities cannot leave the borders of the United States without the fear of stigma, barriers, and denial of their rights…. I urge you, on behalf of 21 veterans service organizations and 165 disability organizations, to support ratification of this treaty so that we can participate and continue America’s noble history of leadership.”

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