Monday, December 9, 2019

H.R. 3373, Office of International Disabilities Rights Act, Let's Make It Happen!

My hats off to Judy Heumann, the first and only, to this point, international disability rights officer in the State Department (2010-2016). Last Saturday she penned an opinion piece in the Hill, alerting us to the importance of H.R. 3373, the Office of International Disability Rights Act, introduced by Dina Titus (Democrat, Nevada), and Don Young (Republican, Alaska). The bill has 25 cosponsors, but we need many more! I anticipate Senator Casey (Democrat, Pennsylvania) will be introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

The legislation would establish an office and a high level officer to lead it on disability rights in the State Department. It's about time. There are one billion people with disabilities on this planet, and we need a designated U.S. team pushing for disability rights. This team could educate U.S. embassies, influence their initiatives and make sure they are inclusive. This team could work with Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs), providing technical assistance, highlighting successes, and shining a light on abuse, neglect, and inequalities. This office could partner with governments, leveraging capital and human resources to lay the foundation for transformational change in the lives of persons with disabilities everywhere.

All this said, we need to get off out couches and go to our keypads, alerting our elected officials to this much needed legislation and ask them to be a co-sponsor and urge their colleagues to join them.

A lot of work has gone into getting us this far. Isabel Hodge, CEO of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, Virginia Atkinson, Liz Siddell, Lauren Terrell and Beverly Haggerdon from the Foundation for Electoral Systems, Eric Rosenthal and Donna Bouclier from Disability Rights International, Stephanie Collins for Human Rights Watch, and Marcie Roth from the World Institute on Disability, as well as John Wodatch and Judy Heumann, board members of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, and many others, coordinated, made calls, sent emails, and walked or rolled the halls of the House just to get us where we are. Now it's our turn to pitch in.

Our message is a simple one.

The 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is coming up in 2020.

The U.S. has always led the way on disability rights.

This is not a partisan mantra, it is a bipartisan commitment with a long, consistent, unwavering history.

Inclusive societies have strong economies and productive citizens.

Support H.R. 3373.

We can do this if we try. Now is the time.

Shoot me an email when you send a message to or talk with your elected officials --

And once again, thanks to all who have pushed thus far!

Thank you,
Common Grounder