During this Congress, the United States has a rare opportunity to share our disability rights commitment with other countries. On July 30, 2009, the U.S. signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). On May 17, 2012, the administration transmitted the CRPD treaty package for ratification, and a bipartisan group of Senate leaders immediately expressed their support for its ratification. By ratifying the treaty, the U.S. Senate will stand up for the equality and dignity of people with disabilities around the globe, just as Congress did for Americans in 1990.
To date, 114 countries have ratified the CRPD, which provides a framework for countries to enact and enforce legislation that recognizes the rights of all people with disabilities and is based on our own ADA. Since the U.S. has been a leader in ensuring rights for individuals with disabilities, ratification does not require changes to laws in the U.S. Ratification would signal to the world that the U.S. is committed to international standards for disability rights and will play a leadership role in implementation of the treaty obligations.
In our current economic climate, there are few legislative initiatives that do not raise concerns about cost. The CRPD advances an important policy without having an impact on our budget. In addition, American businesses will benefit economically from CRPD implementation because it will encourage the adoption of U.S. business’ innovative technology to improve accessibility around the world.
The CRPD also promotes an accessible environment for Americans who work, travel, and study abroad. Thousands of military service members serve and live with their families abroad, including children and spouses with disabilities. The CRPD promotes greater accessibility and protection from disability discrimination in these countries. Our brave service members returning from abroad with disabilities should not be denied career opportunities in the global economy. Twenty-one veteran organizations have joined a letter to Senators Kerry and Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to convey their support for CRPD ratification. These groups include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Wounded Warriors Project.
As a leader in disability rights through bipartisan legislation such as the ADA and its Amendments Act, IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act, Rosa’s Law, the Developmental Disabilities Act, the U.S. must continue this tradition. The enactment of the ADA was an honorable moment in U.S. history, when we joined together as a nation to stand up for a worthy cause. Now, with the treaty package in its hands, it is essential that the Senate support a resolution of ratification for the CRPD. This summer, as we celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the ADA, we must reaffirm common goals of equality, access, and inclusion for all individuals with disabilities.
Dole is a former Republican Senator from Kansas and also served as Majority Leader. Coehlo is a former Democratic Congressman from California and also served as Majorit Whip.