My Turn: A second chance to lead on disability rights
November 18, 2013
For the approximately 57.8 million American residents who live with a disability, traveling aboard — whether for education, business, competition or pleasure — can be challenging due to a lack of universal standards to support their needs.
As a professional athlete living with a spinal cord injury, I've experienced these challenges firsthand, which is one of the many reasons I am a strong supporter of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international disabilities treaty.
Right now, our Senators have the opportunity to ratify this international treaty and improve the way people with disabilities are viewed and accommodated in countries around the world.
Throughout my 27-year career as an adaptive sport athlete, I encountered all sorts of barriers, from physical hurdles to negative attitudes and perceptions about people with disabilities.
The unfortunate truth is that people with disabilities often still experience inaccessible housing that requires assistance to negotiate stairs or even get to a bathroom when staying abroad.
In the United States, we are fortunate to have in place the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which guides policies to ensure the rights, and dignity, of Americans living with a disability. The CRPD is modeled after the ADA, and reflects the values and standards of this important piece of legislation.
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Today, 137 nations around the world have ratified the CRPD to ensure that globally, people with disabilities have a voice in policy making and are not discriminated against.
However, in December of last year, the CRPD missed being ratified in the U.S. Senate by five votes. By ratifying the CRPD we not only gain back our global voice on the issue, but would also support the one billion people with disabilities across the globe — 80 percent of whom live in developing counties where discrimination against the disabled is far too common.
The CRPD is sound legislation. Experts have maintained that it will not cost the federal government any additional funds and it will not threaten any current laws in place.
Bipartisan representatives have also confirmed that the treaty will in no way threaten the sovereignty of the United States.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the CRPD on Thursday, Nov. 21. The two-thirds majority necessary to ratify the treaty is far from ensured, and for this reason, I call upon you to help encourage your Senators to support this key initiative.
Not only would ratification reinforce the ideals of the ADA at home, it would also further secure America's position as a leader in disability rights worldwide and help establish those with disabilities as equal members of society.
With the next hearing taking place this week, I urge you to call, email or write your local Senator today to ask them to ratify the Disability Treaty.
Candace Cable is a Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation community advocate, inclusion activist, Paralympic medalist and Truckee resident.