Friday, May 16, 2014

Senator Toomey and the CRPD

I spent last week viewing videos, reading, and thinking about Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania. He may just be the Republican who steps up and breaks the Senate impasse on ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). He has a current working relationship with both Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign a Relations Committee, and Senator Corker, its ranking Republican member.

Senator Toomey doesn't sit back and wait for others to propose good ideas (S. 1658, The Start-Up Jobs and Innovation Act, introduced with Senator Menendez on  November 6, 2013.). If he sees legislation with a good track record in the House, he has no problem sponsoring it in the Senate (S.1596, protecting children from sexual predators). He is willing to work with Democrat colleagues on a bipartisan basis on issues. He is mild-mannered, well spoken, and thoughtful. He is a frequent visitor on both Fox News and MSNBC. Although not on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has no problem co-sponsoring legislation that has international implications (with Senator Corker, S. 2277, the Russian Aggression Prevention Act). His legislative efforts also include protecting children (Justice for Amy Act) and supporting research in the area of Alzheimer's disease. He is committed to protecting the vulnerable and promoting fairness and opportunity for small businesses. He advocates for a strong U.S. presence in resolving conflicts overseas.

I do not know if anyone has talk to him about the CRPD, but he is not a flamethrower. His legislation seems driven by practical considerations -- he wants to solve problems. And to do so, being in the minority in the Senate, he recognizes the importance of collaboration with Democrats.

This CRPD may not be on Senator Toomey's radar, but we could put it there. We could let him know that --

1. Ratifying a CRPD would help us with other international issues on which we want to be a major, positive force, especially in the area of human rights.
2. Many members of the U.S. business community (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, National Business Leadership Network) support ratification of the CRPD.
3.  We value and seek his evaluation of the draft reservations, understandings, and declarations that are available to place in a resolution on the CRPD.
4.  We seek his help in identifying options for strengthening text of a resolution that would be amenable to Senators with specific concerns.

People who advocate for children and for people with Alzheimer's disease should especially make effort to contact Senator Toomey.

Contact information for Senator Toomey:
Washington, D.C.: 202.224.4254
Allentown:  610.434.1444
Erie:  814.453.3010
Harrisburg:  717.382.3951
Johnstown:  814.266.5970
Philadelphia:  215.241.1090
Pittsburgh:  412.803.3501
Scranton:  570.941.3540
Twitter:  @SenToomey

The 24th anniversary of the ADA is fast approaching, on July 26, 2014. If we reach out to Senator Toomey, we may be able to get his help, break the logjam, and give ourselves one heck of an ADA birthday present.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The CRPD: the Time We Have Is Precious, Let's Use It Wisely

There are 75 days till the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 24th. The collective wisdom is that we work very hard to secure Senate ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international disability rights treaty, the week of July 21st. All of my previous blog posts constitute a crash course on the CRPD, and in a way, a timeline since August 9, 2013 on what was in important, who was important, or why something was important.

I know no one has the time to read 73 blog posts. So I have summarized some key points here.

Some things to remember about the CRPD:

1. All developed countries and our principal allies and trading partners have ratified the CRPD.
2. The CRPD does not require the rights and opportunities extended to persons with disabilities exceed those available to other citizens of a country.
3. Ratification of the CRPD by the Senate would not trigger the need to change U.S. laws or to spend money.
4. Ratification would put us on the same playing field with 140+ countries, which have ratified the CRPD, and would give us a seat at the table when international standards are being set on accessibility and assistive technology.
5. Ratification would give us the right to urge, help, and yes, officially complain, on matters related to compliance or lack thereof with 
the CRPD.
6. Ratification would remove any confusion or objection about where the U.S. stands on disability rights.

These reasons should be shared with our Senators now. They should also be shared with our friends. We cannot let those, who fear joining other countries in ratifying the CRPD, shape and control how we are viewed and where we stand on something so fundamentally right and good.

Thank you.
Common Grounder