NCD Letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Reaffirms Strong Support of U.S. Ratification of U.N. Disability Treaty

June 25, 2013

The Honorable Robert Menendez                    
Chairman                            
Committee on Foreign Relations
U.S. Senate                                                
444 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6225                               

The Honorable Bob Corker
Ranking Member
Committee on Foreign Relations
U.S. Senate
444 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6225


Dear Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker:

The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent nonpartisan federal agency charged with providing advice to Congress and the President on disability policy, writes to restate our strong support for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to offer our agency as a resource to the Committee as it deliberates ratification. The CRPD offers a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world that embraces the human rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. 

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international treaty that was inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities across the globe. Support for ratification comes from all corners of our country, including more than 500 disability organizations, 26 leading faith organizations, 22 veteran’s service organizations and key leaders from the business community including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Business Leadership Network and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). Over a decade ago, NCD kicked off U.S. disability community consideration of an international treaty by publishing a White Paper titled “Understanding the Role of an International Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.” Since that time, NCD has published numerous analyses and reports on the development, signature and ratification of the CRPD.

It is important that the U.S. ratify the CRPD for many reasons. Ratification is critical to maintaining our global leadership role and taking the next step in assisting to eliminate disability discrimination throughout the world. It provides an opportunity for the U.S. to play an important role in the development of disability rights around the world without having to change any U.S. laws or add additional costs to its budget. Ratification would build on a proud moment in legislative history – when through bipartisan leadership, Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was the model for the CRPD - its values of independence, respect and the concept of reasonable accommodation are echoed throughout the treaty.  

By ratifying the CRPD, the U.S. will offer decades of honed technical expertise to reduce barriers globally and ensure that Americans, including our veterans, who travel, work and study abroad have the same access they enjoy here. Without laws like the ADA abroad, millions of children and adults are housed in institutions without enrichment of a family life, community resources or access to the most basic civil rights like a birth certificate or even a name. Until it ratifies the CRPD, the U.S. is a bystander on these critical matters.

Disability is a natural part of the human experience. Currently, 57.8 million Americans have one or more disabilities; 5.5 million American veterans are people with disabilities. There are 1 billion people with disabilities around the world, and 80% of them live in developing countries. Ratification of the CRPD brings us one step closer to the world as we know it can be – making sure that people with disabilities and people without disabilities are treated equally. The rights in the Convention are not new rights. They are the same human rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human treaties. The U.S. is party to over 10,000 treaties and international agreements through which the U.S. has strengthened its position as a global leader, not weakened it.

With over a decade of careful analyses of the CRPD and related discussions, and 35 years as a trusted expert in disability policy concerns, NCD is ready and willing to provide advice and counsel to the Senate as it deliberates ratification. Please feel free to call on us.

Respectfully,

Jeff Rosen
Chairperson
Rockville, MD

Kamilah Oni Martin-Proctor                           
Co-Vice Chair                                                 
Washington, DC                                             

Lynnae Ruttledge
Co-Vice Chair                                                 
Vancouver, Washington

Gary Blumenthal                                             
Sudbury, Massachusetts                                 

Chester A. Finn
Albany, New York

Sara Gelser                                                      
Corvallis, Oregon                                            

Captain Jonathon F. Kuniholm, USMC (Retired)
Durham, North Carolina

Matan Aryeh Koch                                         
New York, New York                                                

Janice Lehrer-Stein
San Francisco, California

Ari Ne’eman                                                   
Silver Spring, Maryland                                  

Stephanie Orlando
Albany, New York
 
Clyde Terry                                                     
Concord, New Hampshire                              

Dr. Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Ph.D.
Los Angeles, California

Alice Wong                                                     
San Francisco, California                                

Pamela Young-Holmes
Madison, Wisconsin

National Council on Disability • 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850 • Washington, DC 20004