Ratifying the Disabilities Treaty: Bringing the Shameful Wall of Exclusion Down
This Saturday, July 26th, will mark the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed in to law by President George H.W. Bush. President Bush ended his remarks that day by saying: “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” He was, of course, alluding to another wall that had only recently fallen—the Berlin Wall. I was born a few months after both those historical events took place and I am often struck that at twenty-three years old, my friends and I are the first group of Americans to grow up in an America where it is illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability.
Today, there are an estimated 1 billion people living with a disability worldwide; 57.8 million of those people live in the United States. In developing countries, children with disabilities attend school at a lower rate than their peers and people with disabilities access employment and health services at a lower rate than the general population. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is based on the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is intended to empower persons with disabilities to be independent and productive. It represents an international effort to bring the world closer to achieving the goals of equality, opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
The U.S. signed the treaty in 2009, but we have not yet ratified CRPD. Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) voted CRPD out of committee by a 12 to 6 vote. This is a huge step towards Senate ratification of CRPD, but now is the time to let our Senators know that we support ratification of CRPD. In December 2012, the Senate voted to ratify CRPD, but fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. In light of SFRC’s vote yesterday morning and the upcoming ADA anniversary, it is essential to make our voices heard.
As Reform Jews, we are committed to upholding the commandment, “You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14). We know that stumbling blocks come in all shapes and sizes— and people with disabilities, some 10% of the world’s population, who make up the world’s largest minority today, face too many of them.