Freedom Friday: The US Senate votes against equality for people with disabilities in the US and around the world
September 19th, 2014
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international treaty that was inspired by U.S. leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities. The CRPD is a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the works that embraces the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. The U.S. signed the CRPD in 2009; the Senate is expected to consider ratification in the 113th Congress.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement on September 17, 2014 following the objection of a Republican Senator to proceed to a vote and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) – a treaty that builds upon the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to create a framework for disability rights laws in other countries. Harkin is the Senate author of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and has led the fight in the Senate to ratify the CRPD. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
“Since the passage of the ADA, the doors of opportunity have been opened to millions of Americans with disabilities. For the U.S. to live up to its role as a global leader on disability rights, we must extend the promise of equal access across the globe and bring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to a vote by the full Senate as soon as possible. More than three-quarters of the countries in the world today have ratified this treaty.
“Today is another sad and irresponsible day in the U.S. Senate, and it is terribly disappointing to me, and to disability advocates around the country. The arguments made against ratifying the CRPD are misinformed and damaging, and a minority of Senators have blocked important progress on human rights based on fictitious rationale. This treaty would reaffirm America’s rightful place as the world leader in rights for people with disabilities. In an increasingly global economy, U.S. citizens with disabilities, including our veterans, too often face barriers when they travel, conduct business, study, or live overseas. Approving this measure would help to break down those barriers.
“I may be retiring from the Senate, but I’m not retiring from this fight. I will never retire from the fight for justice and equality for people with disabilities here and around the world.”
An American delegation under President George W. Bush negotiated and approved the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. The United States signed the treaty in 2009 and the President submitted it to the U.S. Senate in May 2012 for its advice and consent for ratification; a vote on the CRPD in December 2012 fell five votes short in 2012. The treaty requires no changes to U.S. laws or new appropriations.
A very good summary of the CPRD can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Rights_of_Persons_with_Disabilities
What’s Wrong Wednesday: Kanye West Concert Incident ‘Downright Offensive’
September 16th, 2014
The president of the American Association of People with Disabilities on what the MC gets horribly wrong.
Kanye West’s recent demand that every member of the audience stand up during his show in Sydney, Australia showed a fundamental lack of understanding about the world in which we live. Kanye took it a step further by literally shining a light on two members of the audience who remained seated due to their disabilities. Kanye demanded confirmation that they were indeed disabled thereby singling them out. At this point, Kanye went from showing a lack of understanding to being downright offensive. However, Kanye’s actions should come as no surprise because the world of disabilities remains largely hidden from the mainstream. Due to this, most Americans don’t think to consider the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in America.
Kanye’s actions should come as no surprise because the world of disabilities remains largely hidden from the mainstream.
Many Americans do not realize that an estimated 1 percent of the world’s population uses a wheelchair. That is 1 out of every 100 people. There are approximately 2.6 million wheelchair users in the United States alone. Despite these large numbers, how many people using wheelchairs do you see on the street? In your workplace? At a sporting event? Unless you live in a metropolitan area, chances are the number is very small. That’s because, even with significant advances in accessibility thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, most Americans with disabilities remain on the sidelines.
For example, 8 out of every 10 Americans with disabilities remains unemployed. Barriers to employment include everything from lack of accessible transportation (subways, buses, taxis) to discriminatory hiring practices. Recently, the Obama Administration implemented a new regulation designed to change these employment numbers, when they set a 7 percent hiring target for people with disabilities by federal contractors. Since 22 percent of the American workforce is employed by federal contractors, this new rule has the power to transform employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Cities across the country, including New York and Washington D.C., are beginning to require accessible taxi cabs, which means more and more people with disabilities can get to and from work and other activities.
These and other initiatives will transform the landscape for people with disabilities. However, the power of one or two people to transform the dialogue should never be underestimated. People with disabilities don’t ask to be singled out. They do however ask to be treated fairly and have access to the same opportunities as any other American. My hope is that Kanye, everyone who attended his concert, and anyone paying attention to this story in the media, learned a little bit more about what it means to be a person with a disability in the modern age and uses their voice to help people with disabilities get off the sideline.
The Daily Beast. Mark Perriello