Call to Action – Office of International Disability Rights

In 2017, then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson eliminated the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, a position established under the Obama Administration and held by long-time disability activist, and USICD board member, Judith Heumann. 

Recent News!

October 28 2021 Update – President Biden Announces Sara Minkara as United States Special Advisor on International Disability Rights. Read the announcement here.

USICD continues to ask the US disability community and our allies to respond by communicating your support for:



  • House Office of International Disability Rights (HR 3373) passed the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Bill establishes a permanent Office of International Disability Rights at the US Department of State and would require the appointment of a Special Advisor.
  • February 2021 Update: Section 1006 of the State Authorization Act of 2021 includes the Officer on International Disability Rights, however the office is to be led by a Senior Advisor to the appropriate Assistant Secretary of State.

Read USICD President, Dr. Patricia Morrisey’s editorial titled “The 30th Anniversary of the ADA: How Should We Celebrate?”


USICD wrote to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, twice in 2017 in which no acknowledgment or response was received.

We sent a similiar letter to Secretary Pompeo in 2018. In these letters, USICD asked the Secretary to propose to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) legislation making the U.S. Special Advisor for International Disability Rights in the Department of State a permanent entity with authorization for sufficient standing (e.g. ambassadorship for the director), staff, and funding to be effective.  This action is crucial for enabling the US State Department to more effectively respond to global disability rights issues around the world.

Instead, Secretary Tillerson chose to eliminate the position entirely and proposes relegating the current disability mission under the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). We urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) support the establishment of the Office of International Disability Rights and to appoint a Disability Advisor at USAID. Additonal background information:

USICD’s 2018 Letter to Secretary Pompeo with courtesy copy sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

USICD’s Past Letters to Senator Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Letter Proposing Elimination of Office of International Disability Rights at the Department of State