In 2004-2005 I was a member of the U.S. delegation when the U.N. was developing the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It was a special time for me for four reasons. First, the U.N. debates reminded me of the debates that took place when the Americans with Disabilities Act was being developed in 1990. There were many amazing substantive parallels. Second, sessions on the CRPD occurred in two-week periods in January and August, the coldest and hottest times of the year in New York City – and over the sessions the number of persons with disabilities from around the world, who attended these sessions, doubled or tripled with each session. In addition, the number of persons with disabilities, who were members of official delegations, increased every session. Third, the chairs of the working group, which was writing the CRPD, allowed persons with disabilities to speak to 190 plus delegations directly on each article of the CRPD as it was being debated and written. That was an unprecedented. Fourth, words being debated and edited were displayed on wide screens so that delegations and observers saw text agreed to and edited as it was happening. God bless transparency and technology!
What these points illustrate is that people with disabilities, just as with the ADA, played a central role in shaping the words that made it into the CRPD. The strength of words in the CRPD, the broad scope of the CRPD, and degree of detail in the CRPD are there because persons with disabilities from across the globe knew what was needed to change their lives and their friends’ lives for the better. Treatment of people with disabilities warranted universal standards based on equality, nondiscrimination, accessibility, freedom, independence, participation, and opportunity. In a clear voice, through the CRPD, these people declared their expectations, expectations that would touch any space, time in a day, or activity, such as – home, school, the workplace, choices in places to live, doctors’ offices and hospitals, leisure, shopping, transit, safety, and participation in every other aspects of community life.
Our Constitution is strong. Our government has checks and balances that preserve our sovereignty. Parents, who home school, must consider the lives of their children with disabilities, when they leave home and experience the wider world without them.
The inherent validity in the words in the CRPD reflects the will of persons with disabilities. We must emphasize this point to every Senators and every home schooling parent. Concerns about sovereignty and parents rights can be addressed in a CRPD resolution. We cannot let these concerns derail this very special opportunity the U.S. has to join the rest of the world and embrace the CRPD through ratification.