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Ratifying the Disability Treaty: Statements of Support

Watch: Second Hearing on Disability Treaty Starting at 9:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON, DC – A cross section of elected leaders, public servants, activists, columnists and opinion shapers spanning the political spectrum are speaking out and offering their support in favor of ratifying the Disability Treaty.

“From op-eds to blogs, interviews to tweets, a broad range of Americans are expressing their support for ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.“This is not a right vs. left issue, but an American issue.  A broad coalition of people and organizations have come together to tell the Senate that by ratifying this treaty, we are exporting the American Constitutional ideals of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity around the globe.”

A sampling of these supporting statements appears below:

U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and John McCain:

“Worldwide, a billion people live with a disability, 80% of whom are in the developing world. In too many places, those with disabilities are housed in institutions separate from their families, without access to the outside world. In some countries, the disabled are denied the most basic rights such as a birth certificate or a name. The American approach to disability rights springs from the core of our founding documents. It embodies "equality" and "unalienable rights" in the best tradition of our ideals. The United States has already been the trailblazer for the rights of the disabled around the world. Now is not the time to step away, but the time to step up and continue to lead by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Former U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN):

‘“Some still argue that the United States has no need to ratify the U.N. treaty. The Americans with Disabilities Act, they insist, already protects the rights of those with disabilities at home. But as a global leader, we must stand with those struggling for the rights that we hold dear…Voting no to this treaty without a specific and compelling reason is saying that we do not think the global community deserves an ADA of their own…U.S. leadership matters. We should be at the table. It is not just Americans who deserve healthcare and protection from discrimination. It is everyone.”

Former U.S. Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE):

“Back in the good old days, when there was bipartisan support for such things as mom and apple pie, President George H.W. Bush signed the landmark 1990 Americans for Disability Act (ADA). I can remember how proud we were that the United States had passed a comprehensive civil rights law for disabled people, and how we hoped the rest of the world would follow us. Sixteen years later, President George W. Bush's administration negotiated the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international treaty that calls for ADA-like protection for people around the world. President Obama signed the treaty in 2009. The treaty requires countries that ratify it to begin to work toward standards on accessibility and infrastructure for the disabled similar to our own. This will not only help the disabled in those countries. It will also help the estimated 40 percent of U.S. travelers or their travel companions who have disabilities. One hundred and thirty-eight countries have now ratified the convention. The United States is not among them…Mom, apple pie, and rights for the disabled. If we can't find five more votes this time to ratify the CRPD, I think we'll know that ideological gridlock is a terminal condition in this session of Congress.”

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA):

“Everyone who has worn the uniform of the United States knows that fighting for our country doesn’t stop when deployment ends. Our duty to our fellow soldiers, and our fellow citizens, is a lifelong promise made when we joined the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. It is a promise I made proudly nearly 20 years ago and one I intend to keep by fighting for the tens of millions of disabled Americans and the millions of disabled American veterans…We had a saying in the Army: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” The United States takes care of our own and we leave no one behind. When it comes to the Disabilities Treaty, it’s time that America took the lead on behalf of our veterans and disabled Americans all across the world.”

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush:

“The resolution of ratification makes clear that the Americans with Disabilities Act remains the controlling U.S. law and that the treaty will not affect current enforcement or create additional causes for legal action. The treaty cannot be enforced through U.S. courts, and it creates no international venues for litigation. Recommendations from the committee of experts are nonbinding. This does not require trusting the United Nations, only trusting the supremacy of the Constitution and American law.”

“So if the treaty leaves U.S. law exactly the same, why take the risk of signing at all? The answer depends on your broader view of America’s calling. If you think American exceptionalism is sullied, or stained or corrupted by engagement with the world, then isolation from the contagion of international norms is a natural response. But if American exceptionalism is expressed by shaping international norms according to the universal values of our founding—including the rights and dignity of disabled men and women—then engagement is instinctive.”

Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of Kessler Foundation:

People with disabilities are the largest minority group in this country, numbering more than 56 million. In the U.S., we promote inclusion and employment for people with disabilities. As more and more Americans with disabilities enter the workforce, their need to travel for business increases. What if they can’t get into a building due to curbs, stairs or lack of elevators? What if they are denied the chance to contribute based on their disabilities? Until the treaty is ratified, there are no rules that govern the rights of Americans with disabilities who travel abroad for education, recreation or work.”

Greta Van Susteren, Fox News Channel:

No Treaty or law is ever perfect…but when I see our vets (especially those injured so severely protecting us) band together and ask the nation to do something, I know it is important.”

Marca Bristo, President, U.S. International Council on Disabilities:

“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.”

Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors:  

“The NAACP was a strong and early supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law 23 years ago and is the foundation for the convention. The new treaty, which President Obama signed in 2009, would hold up the ADA standards as a model for addressing the needs of people with disabilities in countries around the world.”