Friday, August 30, 2013

How Is Ratification of the CRPD Beneficial to Americans with Disabilities Working or Traveling in Other Countries?

There has been a lot of chatter about this question by those who support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the Senate this fall and those who oppose it. Neither side, however, has made its case clearly. Perhaps, in part, because this topic is hard to cover in a 30 second sound bite.

The opposition says the U.S. ratifying the CRPD will have no impact on accessibility for Americans going overseas. The proponents of ratification say that the U.S. ratifying the treaty will lead to more accessibility for Americans with disabilities vacationing, studying, or working abroad. Both sides could be correct in their assertions. It depends on the time frame you assume. It depends on whether you believe in the power of political leverage among countries.

A treaty is an agreement between or among countries. The CRPD describes what countries must do. The WHAT in the CRPD – countries that ratify it agree not to discriminate on the basis of disability. The CRPD allows flexibility on HOW a country chooses to demonstrate it does not discriminate on the basis of disability. The HOW has taken and will take many different forms, but most countries comply with the CRPD through laws. Some countries, like the U.S., have done what is required. Other countries have a way to go.

So? A treaty means that parties to it, that is, countries that ratify it, agree to follow the same standards. If country A and country B ratify the treaty, either can put pressure on the other to get moving! Both could join forces to urge other countries to ratify the treaty. However, if one country has ratified the treaty and one has not (like the U.S.), the country that has not, has no political clout in international circles to urge other countries to do anything. With ratification a country’s political capital goes way up. It can comment, formally complain, and take other measures, such as offer technical assistance, to push other countries in the right direction.

Accessibility is covered in the CRPD. If the U.S. were to ratify the CRPD, when Americans with disabilities go to another country that has ratified the CRPD, they could expect accessibility as they move about and communicate within that country. If they encounter barriers, they could tell our government and our government could raise the barriers with the government of that country. Accessibility will improve everywhere overtime in countries that have ratified the treaty, because one-by-one and in groups barriers will be made known and resolved in the spirit of cooperation and in the name of doing business.

Opponents of ratification are right about one thing. Worldwide accessibility will not happen as the result of Senate ratification. It will take time. Senate ratification of the CRPD is a spark. Worldwide implementation will take hard work, patience, cooperation, collaboration, and good will. The world could use a dose of these things.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Article 25 of the CRPD, Access to Health Services

I begin this blog by telling a true story. When the working group was drafting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it heard from people with disabilities. A self-advocate from New Zealand, who had spent most of his life in an institution, told of a woman he knew while in the institution. The woman died of ovarian cancer. She had never had any preventative screening of her reproductive organs because, as the self-advocate put it, “She was retarded.” This story and others like it had a profound effect on the working group. They believed strongly that, “reproductive programmes” had to be mentioned in Article 25 or people with disabilities would continue to be ignored or denied reproductive health services.

While the phrasing in Article 25 of the CRPD had such an intent –
(a) Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes;
people who were opposed to abortion thought the wording in this paragraph would create new abortion rights.  That is why the phrase “as provided to other persons” was included. So when it comes to access to health services, including reproductive care and programs, persons with disabilities would have access to no more or less than others. This wording does not create new abortion rights.
It may be of value to see the entire text of Article 25.

States Parties recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities to health services that are gender-sensitive, including health-related rehabilitation. In particular, States Parties shall:
(a) Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes;
(b) Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, including among children and older persons;
(c) Provide these health services as close as possible to people’s own communities, including in rural areas;
(d) Require health professionals to provide care of the same quality to persons with disabilities as to others, including on the basis of free and informed consent by, inter alia, raising awareness of the human rights, dignity, autonomy and needs of persons with disabilities through training and the promulgation of ethical standards for public and private health care;
(e) Prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of health insurance, and life insurance where such insurance is permitted by national law, which shall be provided in a fair and reasonable manner;
(f) Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.

I think these words are something we all can support.

Thank you.
Common Grounder