Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on Disability Treaty

November 6, 2013

For Immediate Release:                      Contact: Kevin Locke, U.S. International Council on Disabilities 

November 6, 2013                                   , (202) 347-0102


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on Disability Treaty


Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the first of two hearings on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international disability treaty that was inspired by U.S. leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities worldwide. The Disability Treaty is a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world, modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. In spite of widespread support from veterans service organizations, faith organizations, business, and the disability community, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, the treaty fell just five votes short of ratification in a controversial Senate vote last December.


Activists representing the broad coalition in favor of the treaty were present at the hearing to show their support. In addition to filling up the hearing room with supporters of the treaty, advocates also filled two additional overflow rooms. 


Marca Bristo, President of the US International Council on Disabilities was energized by the turnout at the hearing and encouraged by the substantive discussion of the treaty. Ms. Bristo remarked, “I’m thrilled and gratified that we have had such a robust turnout for the first hearing. Those present today represented the strength, diversity, and commitment of our community. Our coalition reflects America and the millions of Americans with disabilities, professionals, veterans, and religious and civil rights organizations who both need and want the Disability Treaty to be ratified."  


All of those present voiced the hope felt by many in the disability, civil rights, veteran, business, and faith communities that the U.S. Senate would take this rare second chance to do the right thing and vote to ratify the treaty. Witnesses speaking on behalf of the treaty included Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Mark Kirk, Representative Tammy Duckworth, Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, and Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.


Senator Mark Kirk said, “America must remain the voice for the voiceless – the leader to end disability-based discrimination and exclusion throughout the world.  We now have commitments from many countries to promote and ensure equal access for their citizens living with disabilities. The CRPD is the mechanism for these commitments to become a reality.”


Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth said, “When Veterans travel abroad, we are often jolted by leaving a country that does everything in its power to support our Wounded Warriors. We often travel to places that have no idea how to accommodate someone with an artificial limb, guide stick, or wheelchair. We Wounded Warriors have done our job serving our country. Many of us sacrificed a great deal in doing so. We did this because we believe in our nation. We believe our country should lead - that the world is a better place when the U.S. steps up to take leadership. And when it comes to improving opportunities for disabled Americans who want to travel and work abroad, Veterans believe we should have a seat at the head of the table.”


Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said, “Fortunately, the Disabilities Convention is an embodiment of the nondiscrimination principles developed in the United States. Its principles and, indeed, much of its language, come directly from U.S. law, adopting the successful and balanced approach of U.S. federal disability rights law.”