WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today were joined by leading international and New Jersey disability rights experts and dozens of advocates for a roundtable discussion in the U.S. Capitol on how to better secure the rights of people with disabilities. The panel discussion centered on the need for Congress to do more to help empower people with disabilities and their families globally, including through the approval of the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act, bipartisan legislation co-authored by the senators to bolster the United States’ support for children with disabilities and improve the capacity of local disabilities rights organizations and families of children with disabilities worldwide to advocate for necessary reforms.
“As we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we know more than one billion people are living with some form of disability around the world today. We also know far too many of the over 240 million disabled children worldwide are still being denied their most basic rights. Excluded by their communities, they face increased levels of stigma and discrimination as their families don’t have the resources or support systems to protect and care for them,” Chairman Menendez said. “That is why I so appreciated the opportunity to have a strategy session with movement leaders and disability rights advocates who know better than most the ways in which we can improve our support for global efforts for people with disabilities and their families. I look forward to continue working with these fearless advocates on behalf of global disability rights, including through the swift passage of our International Children with Disabilities Protection Act.”
“After decades of advocacy work and legislative changes, the United States is the gold standard when it comes to disability rights,” said Sen. Moran. “This roundtable brought together advocacy groups to discuss how the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act would be a catalyst in the fight for the rights of children with disabilities around the world. I am grateful for all the groups who joined the roundtable today to make certain children with disabilities have a place in society where they are respected, loved and treated with basic human dignity.”
Introduced in September, the bipartisan International Children with Disabilities Protection Act authorizes a total of $50 million in new funding over five years for the creation and establishment of an ‘‘International Children with Disabilities Protection Program,” a grant program within the State Department to empower organizations of persons with disabilities. In addition to creating the first U.S. program focused on assisting global efforts to combat stigma and discrimination against children with disabilities, the legislation reinforces U.S. policy to protect against the unnecessary institutionalization of children with disabilities and to help promote the development of laws and policies that support the full inclusion of children with disabilities in families.
Click HERE for a copy of the legislation.
Click HERE for a one-page summary of the bill.
Today’s roundtable panel included Eric Rosenthal, Disability Rights International; Isabel Hodge, Executive Director, United States International Council on Disability (USICD); the Honorable Judy Heumann, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and former State Department Special Advisor on International Disability Rights; Leonardo Hosh, Vice President for Child Protection and Education, World Vison; and Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network (New Jersey) and Executive Director, National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE).
“We must make sure that no family is forced to give up a child with a disability who they love. A small investment by the United States in supporting advocacy by families and people with disabilities will have a big impact on protecting millions of children with disabilities around the world,” said Eric Rosenthal, Disability Rights International.
“Decades ago, parents of children with disabilities in the U.S. successfully advocated to include funding for Parent Centers to help families learn how to advocate for their children as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. With the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act, parents of children with disabilities around the world will be able to access this same support and improve outcomes for their children,” said Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network (New Jersey); Executive Director, National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE).
"As a professional and as a parent of a child with disability, I witness daily the tremendous potential children with disability can realize when their agency is established and supportive policies and services are in place — these not only directly benefit the children, but also positively impact their families and enrich the broader community,” said Leo Hosh, Associate Vice President for Child Protection and Education, World Vision.
“There is a desperate need to ensure that disabled children who are so often discarded receive the support they need to live lives with dignity. Please support the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act” said The Honorable Judy Heumann, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and former State Department Special Advisor on International Disability Rights.