Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ratification of the CRPD, a Story that Has Legs, or Should I Say Wheels

 A friend of mine is actively promoting a non-profit organization, started by a civilian who worked in Iraq, Brad Blauser. He started Wheelchairs for Kids International ( Brad got the idea from a military physician who asked for his help. The doctor was seeing many children, who could not walk, crawling on the ground because the children did not have access to wheelchairs of the appropriate size.

Brad got his colleagues, friends, and family involved. The response was amazing. Through 2012, 1,345 children received customized chairs through Brad's efforts. He figured out ways to keep production costs down. And at one point, the cost of shipping a chair was more than the production cost! One year he was recognized as one of CNN's Top Ten Heroes.

But as with many good ideas, interest and support wanes unless one has an aggressive, well-funded publicity campaign. That is why my friend highlighted Wheelchairs for Kids International on, to bring new attention to the Brad's efforts.

What's this story got to do with the CRPD? Well, a parent who adopted a child from Ukraine, who uses a wheelchair, commented on that -- what good would a wheelchair be if the place where a child lives is inaccessible? 

The answer is clear, if not obvious. If more and more children, who need wheelchairs, can get ones that fit them, more and more kids will venture out of their homes or want to. Expectations will change. Slowly, and perhaps not so slowly, communities will become more accessible because of what these kids, their friends, and families expect. Expectations such as these are magic imbedded in the CRPD. Each and every effort, no matter how small, to extend rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities will foster changes in expectations, alter the social landscape, and lead everyone to enthusiastically embrace universal design and its benefits for everyone.

The U.S. Senate needs to ratify the CRPD, so that we can be a full partner in this exciting future. Please, let's roll!

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Friday, January 17, 2014

CRPD and Plan B

On January 15, 2014, Senator Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Tennessee advocates for persons with disabilities. Senator Corker expressed his opposition to the ratification of the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on December 20, 2013. The Tennessee advocates, lead by Carol Westlake, Executive Director, Tennessee Disability Coalition, welcomed and were pleased that Senator Corker agreed to meet with them. By all accounts it was a long, open exchange of points of view ( That was good, but Senator Corker did not change his position. He remains concerned that ratification of the CRPD would undermine U.S. sovereignty. Well, in spite of the Tennessee advocates' heart-felt efforts to convince Senator Corker to change his position and support ratification of the CRPD, we must respect the Senator's decision not to. We must move on.  We need to reach out to other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and attempt to find others, who, like Senator Barrasso and McCain, on the Republican side, would also support ratification and hope, because he is a gentleman, Senator Corker would not actively counter our efforts.

Here are the 5 Republican Senators that we should approach now and urge them to join other Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who have expressed their support for ratification of the CRPD. If you are from one of the key states you could help build the momentum for ratification by talking to your Senator.

Johnson (R-WI) (202) 224-5323
Flake (R-AZ) (202) 224-4521
Paul (R-KY) (202) 224-4343
Risch (R-ID) (202) 224-2752
Rubio (R-FL) (202) 224-3041

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

CRPD and Momentum

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is stuck in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It’s not a peanut butter, it’s a disability rights treaty. It costs no money. It requires no change in U.S. laws. Legal scholars, and I suspect, the Obama Administration and Committee staff too, have proposed clarifications to address concerns about the treaty’s impact on sovereignty, home schooling, and other matters. Yet the treaty is stuck. The latest is that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have not heard from enough proponents of ratification.

Ok. If that’s the reason, here are the phone numbers:


Voted yes Dec. 4, 2012

Menendez (D-NJ) (202) 224-4744, Chairman
Barrasso (R-WY) (202) 224-6441
Boxer (D-CA) (202) 224-3553
Cardin (D-MD) (202) 224-4524
Coons (D-DE) (202) 224-5042
Durbin (D-IL) (202) 224-2152
McCain (R-AZ) (202) 224-2235
Shaheen (D-NH) (202) 224-4049
Udall (D-NM) (202) 224-6621

Voted no Dec. 4, 2012

Corker (R-TN) (202) 224-3344, Ranking Republican
Johnson (R-WI) (202) 224-5323
Paul (R-KY) (202) 224-4343
Risch (R-ID) (202) 224-2752
Rubio (R-FL) (202) 224-3041

New members in 2013, did not vote in 2012

Flake (R-AZ) (202) 224-4521
Kaine (D-VA) (202) 224-4024
Markey (D-MA) (202) 224-2742
Murphy (D-CN) (202) 224-4041

Call Senators, please. Show them what momentum looks like. For the life of me, I struggle to grasp why something so right, so needed, must be shouted about over and over again. But, so be it. I am willing to do whatever it takes to get and sustain the attention of Senators to make ratification happen. Here’s hoping you’ll join me.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Sunday, January 12, 2014

An Open Letter to Senator Corker

Dear Senator Corker:

The year 2014 offers each of us an opportunity to make a fresh start. Since you are the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee you have the opportunity, and too, the responsibility, to assess our country's standing in the world, and as a leader, promote strategies to make the U.S. stronger, more influential, and secure.

One strategy that will clearly make us stronger, more influential, and secure is to embrace policies that promote human rights and the protection of those rights. For, if we speak out about how people should be treated, people around the world will listen. The universality of freedom, equal opportunity, ability to fully participate in civil society need no translation. If we espouse these values people will understand and welcome us. This good will extend beyond human rights to all kind of partnerships into economic and security alliances. And ultimately, these partnerships will result in other countries fervently promoting the values we hold dear. Why? Because other countries think these values have made us what we are. They want to be like us.

That is why we cannot put conditions or limits on how we view the rights of persons with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act is our beacon, a beacon the world has adopted through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We must ratify it. Please take the long view. Please lead your colleagues to ratification in a strong bipartisan vote. You have the power to do that. Ratification under those terms will make the world a better place and your role in this important time in history will be recorded.

Thank you.
Patricia Morrissey