Saturday, January 25, 2014

CRPD Ratification:  It Is Up to Us

I started blogging about ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on August 9, 2013. I thought by taking on CRPD-related topics one at a time, by not getting too much into the weeds, by using non-jargon as much as possible, and by addressing possible consequences in terms of probabilities, that most people would decide that ratification was a good idea, and therefore, help make it happen before 2014.

Well, I have had almost 5,000 views of my blog and 2014 is here, and the path to ratification is uncertain. Although I have spent most of my professional life involved in the disability policy arena, I was usually on the "inside" where people advocated for something to me. Now with this blog experience I know it is a challenge to get people's attention, keep it, and even more challenging to inspire people to take an action and then another and another.

I am an optimistic person, but I now know I am naive. Most people have many things competing for their attention in the course of a day. An international treaty is foreign (no pun intended) to most people. Its relevance to them is not there. The connection to people has to be made. I think that has happened. Through  the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, David Morrissey ( no relation to me), its CEO, Marca Bristol, its president, and its staff, and other national figures (Senator Bob Dole, formerAttorney General Dick Thornburgh, Patria Wright and others with the Disabilities Rights and Education Defense Fund, former Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD, Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference, former Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former House whip Tony Coelho, former Representative Steve Bartlett, former Counselor to President George H.W. Bush, Boyden Gray and others), many, many organizations and people have joined hands to push for ratification of the CRPD. As a result all Senators know ratification is important to the disability community. Opponents to ratification know that ratification is important to the disability community. So on one level we have been successful.

The risk we face is that if we do not succeed in achieving ratification early in 2014, it won't happen for a long time. And, if we fail, the next time we join hands to advocate for a policy that would benefit people with disabilities, any policy, elected officials may blow us off, because we are viewed as not that strong or effective a force for change.

There is so much more at stake than the CRPD. Please stay or become engaged now. Help us secure ratification. Contact your Senators. Urge ratification, even if you have done so previously. The facts are on our side. Time is not. 

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The CRPD and Two World Views

U.S. News and World Report featured two opinion pieces on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on January 20, 2014. One  was by Christopher Neiweem,  Director of VetsFirst, a program of the United Spinal Association, in favor of ratification. And the other was by Steven Groves with The Heritage Foundation, against ratification.

No one can predict or guarantee how much or how fast the world will change for the better with regard to people with disabilities if the CRPD were or were not ratified. However, what we have in these opinion pieces is two very different views of what will happen. Neiweem sees more accessibility and greater opportunities for veterans with disabilities and others with disabilities. Groves sees the Constitution unraveling and our system of government being jeopardized.

If you consider the underlying values in the CRPD-- nondiscrimination on the basis of disability and equal opportunity --  you realize that the objective is to change behavior, to set standards for how people with disabilities are treated. The hope is that individual behavior and government policies will increasingly embrace the values expressed in the CRPD. How these values can have negative consequences of the nature and magnitude that Groves suggests, defy logic.

The U.S. and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were a good match. Things changed for the better. The ADA was a model for the CRPD. Everyone admits these two facts -- the ADA was a good thing and it was a model or the CRPD. With ratification we restore our full partnership as a champion of human rights with the world community. Without ratification we raise doubts about our sincerity and commitment to disability rights both here and abroad. We give ammunition to our detractors. We lose the opportunity to shape the nature and progress toward an accessible world for all. We run the risk of marginalizing market openings for American business. 

On balance ratification of the CRPD is the best course. The other alternative is too much of the "chicken little" syndrome that, in effect, doubts the strength of our Constitution and the effectiveness of the checks and balances in our system of government.

If you agree with me that ours will be a bright future if we ratify the CRPD, then please let the Senate know -- first the members of the Foreign Relations Committee and then, all Senators. Let's settle this now. 

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The CRPD and Five Men Who Hold History in Their Hands

I have high hopes. Next week Senators will be in their states. Five Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) are especially important. I hope, if constituents who support the CRPD contact them, these five Senators will join other Republican Senators who also support the treaty (Ayotte, Barrasso, Collins, McCain, Murkowski, and Kirk). When the CRPD is voted out of the SFRC (the Chairman has the votes he needs to pass the CRPD resolution out of the committee), it is my hope these five on the committee will be there to make the committee vote unanimous in favor of the CRPD. And then, as rising stars in the Republican party I hope these five will encourage other Republican Senators to join in the vote for ratification of the CRPD on the Senate floor. Disability-related issues have historically been bipartisan and the Senate has played a leadership role in these areas. It should happen in this case, but it is up to us to reach out to these five. You do not need to search for their numbers. They are below.

Flake (R-AZ)
            DC: (202) 224-4521
            TUCSON: (520) 575-8633
            PHOENIX: (602) 840-1891
Johnson (R-WI)
            DC: (202) 224-5323
            OSHKOSH: (920) 230-7250
            MILWAUKEE: (414) 276-7282
Paul (R-KY)
            DC: (202) 224-4343
            CRESCENT SPRINGS: (859) 426-0165
Risch (R-ID)
            DC: (202) 224-2752
            BOISE: (208) 342-7985
            COEUR d’ALENE: (208) 667-6130
            IDAHO FALLS: (208) 523-5541
            LEWISTON: (208) 743-0792
            POCATELLO: (208) 236-6817
            TWIN FALLS: (208) 734-6780
Rubio (R-FL)
            DC: (202) 224-3041
            ORLANDO: (407) 254-2573 or (866) 630-7106
            MIAMI: (305) 418-8553
            TAMPA: (813) 977-6450
            JACKSONVILLE: (904) 398-8586
            PENSACOLA: (850) 433-2603
            TALLAHASSEE: (850) 599-9100
            NAPLES: (239) 213-1521
            PALM BEACH: (561) 775-3360

Senator Corker, the Ranking Republican on the SFRC, does not support ratification of the CRPD. Two other Republican Senators, Barrasso (R-WY) and McCain (R-AZ) on the SFRC, and all Democrat Senators on the SFRC (Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman; Boxer (D-CA), Cardin (D-MD), Coons (D-DE), Durbin (D-IL), Kaine (D-VA), Markey (D-MA) Murphy (D-CN), Shaheen (D-NH), and Udall (D-NM)) do support ratification of the CRPD.

Thank you.
Common Grounder