Saturday, March 22, 2014

Timeline on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

If my research is accurate, 193 countries belong to the United Nations (U.N.). Of that number, 143 have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The U.S. has not.

Being among the countries that agree to implement laws consistent with CRPD principles is a two-step process. First a country must sign the CRPD. Then the country’s legislature (like our Congress, but in this case only the Senate has responsibility for ratifications) must ratify it. As I said, the U.S. has not ratified the CRPD.

To emphasize that startling fact – we are in there with the last 23 percent – countries like Libya, Sri Lanka, Chad, Bhutan – that have not ratified. Here are some more facts. There are 128 members of the European Union (as of July 2013). Of these, at least 124 have ratified the CRPD. Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also have ratified the CRPD. What is the U.S. afraid of? Clearly the European Union countries, as well as English-speaking countries, are as legally sophisticated and concerned about sovereignty, separation of powers, abortion, and parental rights as we are. And yet, they found a way to ratify the CRPD. We have had plenty of time to think about these issues, to research how others have addressed these issues, and to compile and weigh solid legal options. 

Just look at the timeline:

Dec. 13, 2006   U.N. General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons
                         with Disabilities. 
Jul. 30, 2009     U.S. signed the CRPD.
May 17, 2012   President transmitted CRPD to the Senate for its advisement and
Jul. 11, 2012    Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held the first hearing on
                        CRPD (112th Congress).
Jul. 26, 2012    SFRC, on a vote 13-6, passed the CRPD out of committee.
Dec. 4, 2012    CRPD failed to pass during a full Senate vote (61-38, needed 67) (112th
Nov. 5, 2013    Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the first hearing on the
                         CRPD  in the 113th Congress.
Nov. 21, 2013  Senate Foreign Relations Committee held  the second hearing on
                         the CRPD in the 113th Congress.

It is now March 22, 2014.  Primaries are looming. Relations with Russia are deteriorating. No one can honestly say that a window of opportunity for ratification of the CRPD will open up later in 2014.

I don’t think we need more time. We need a reason to act. There are enough votes to get the CRPD voted out of committee. If we see a move like THAT there are plenty of us ready to reach out TO EACH SENATOR, with passion, conviction, and compelling, tailored arguments for the CRPD. Really, people with disabilities, a ton of veterans, and others are poised. Please, SFRC give us a reason to move out and make the final push for ratification of the CRPD!

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Video Is Worth a Thousand Words: Amy Purdy Inspires

A friend told me there is a contestant on Dancing with Stars who is a double-amputee, Amy Purdy. She earned a Bronze Medal for snowboarding at the Paralympic Games in Sochi. I think I heard, she lost her legs two years ago. So I watched the Dancing with Stars video of Amy doing the cha cha with Derek Hough, and was blown away. Wow!

If Amy can do what she did, surely we can find a way to make ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities happen. Amy projects determination, discipline, a ton of energy, professionalism, and pride. She inspires, excites, and motivates the rest of us. Each of us needs to reflect on Amy's story and consider what we could do to get the CRPD ratified.

Since August 9, 2013 I have outlined important facts, suggested things to do, and sometimes let my frustration sneak out. But, I am basically an optimist. If something doesn't work, the lesson is -- try something else.

Well, here's my latest idea, it builds on the call for personal stories.
1. Watch the YouTube video of Amy Purdy
2. Draft a message of how it affected you, what you are going to do to support the CRPD, and why others should also take action.
3. Video tape the message and upload it to YouTube.
4. Your effort will inspire others.
5. We will be able to track the impact on YouTube.

This is worth a try.

Common Grounder

Monday, March 17, 2014

CRPD: Is It Time for a March on Washington?

I sense it will take something big, like a march on Washington, D.C., to get Senate action on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Senator Menendez needs some sustained wind behind him in order to make the right move. People in the U.S. need to see that we have power and that we matter. People in the U.S. need to understand that the world is going to change because of the CRPD and we must to be a player. Failure to ratify the CRPD is not an option.

A march would provide us with an opportunity to push a broad policy agenda in addition to ratification of the CRPD.  

Sample Agenda
  • Ratification of the CRPD
  • Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, perhaps as an independent piece of legislation
  • Amendment to the Social Security Act, so that people with disabilities are not penalized for saving more than $2,000
  • Renewed funding for the Help America Vote Act provisions that support accessible voting materials, procedures, and places
  • A White House Commission to determine the real barriers to employment for people with disabilities
  • Amendments to laws that affect veterans, so that those now covered, get what they need, when they need it, or there are adverse consequences for those responsible for delays and waiting lines
  • Investment in innovative housing options that put access to housing modification, financing, and support systems under one agency
  • Proactive training of healthcare professionals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services so that people are informed, treated, and live healthy lives
  • Creating new and broadening of existing opportunities for people to become entrepreneurs
  • Broadening of support for respite care

Such actions would benefit many people, many families. We need something to re-energize everyone. A march might just do it. If we each read the words in the CRPD we grasp the value of empowerment. We know things can happen more quickly through partnerships, including global partnerships. People with disabilities, veterans, senior citizens, and people of all backgrounds could join hands and walk from the White House to the Capitol and say, “Hear us and act. If you don’t there will be real consequences in November."

Think about it.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Catch-22 Situation

Other than the PBS News Hour piece on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on last week, there has not been a big splash of news stories or commentary on the treaty. Some of us had hoped the Paralympic Games would provide a trigger for wide-based exposure, and then enthusiasm, for the treaty. I am still searching for that. Some put out a call for personal stories. I have no idea how many people responded to that. Two of us launched a petition on the White House website, asking the White House to urge the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Committee to move the CRPD to the Senate floor. In a little over two weeks we got 77 signatures. We need 100,000 by April 1, 2014. Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the MS Society, when it gave him an award last week, that ratification of the CRPD is a priority for him.

Since December 20, 2013 when Senator Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Alexander, both from Tennessee, said they opposed the ratification of the CRPD, we have not seen additional statements of an intent to oppose the CRPD.

What does this assortment of facts suggest?

Advocates' enthusiasm for pushing for ratification is waning in the absence of concrete progress.

Opponents of the CRPD are going to kill ratification. They just have to wait us out.

The treaty text and ratification process are too complicated and it's hard to talk about them in 30 second sound bites.

No matter how many ways and how many times you say the CRPD is a good thing, people just don't connect it to their lives.

There is an absence of courage among those who support the CRPD to demand that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee take action. God forbid we tick them off.

There is a reluctance on the part of the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to take action now because public support is not loud enough, big enough, or powerful enough.

I'd say all of the above are valid.

We are in a Catch-22 situation. Those in charge fear sharing concrete evidence of progress. They view the silence of the opposition as a good thing. Somebody has to move.

Waiting is not a strategy. The situation is not going to improve. All of us with an interest in the ratification of the CRPD must find it within ourselves to take the necessary actions to make ratification happen now.

Thank you.
Common Grounder