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. Read more…
Through the Machon Kaplan program this summer, I am interning at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the longest- running national cross- disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. As a membership organization, NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities through consumer-driven advocacy. NCIL envisions a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.
Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to do some really awesome things with NCIL! I attended a hearing on Capitol Hill about adoption and the rights of parents and children with disabilities called “Rocking the Cradle” and helped write comments for the Proposed Priority – Assistive Technology: Alternative Financing Programs. I have learned a lot about NCIL’s policies and know that I am contributing to the advocacy works for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. Read more…
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), based on the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is intended to empower persons with disabilities to be independent and productive citizens. 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. Read more…
By Neil Jacobson
Imagine going into your 9-month old son’s room to find him sitting atop his 5.5 feet tall dresser adjacent to his crib. Imagine you and your wife sitting in your wheelchairs staring up at this smiling boy knowing there’s no way either of you are able to reach your son to get him down from there. What do you do? Well, after gasping for air, my wife, Denise, looked at me and said, “Well, if David was able to get up there by himself, he should be able to get down by himself.” Sure enough, with just a little coaxing from us, he went on his stomach and slid safely back into his crib. The look of success on David’s face was precious!
A few years later, when David was 4, we had a friend of his over for lunch. The friend was the same age as David. We had a snack that day. As was normal in our house, David got the cookies from the cabinet and the milk from the fridge. David proceeded to pour the milk into glasses for all of us. His friend was wide-eyed. “Wow,” he said, “Your parents let you pour milk! That is so cool!” Little did the friend realize that with our disabilities, neither Denise or I could pour very well, and that David had been doing so since he was about 2. The look of pride and success on David’s face when he heard his friend praise him was unforgettable.
By Allison Wohl
When our youngest son was born in 2009, I was climbing the ladder at a Big 4 consulting firm doing management consulting for the federal sector. My firm had generous benefits, “wellness” benefits (they paid for my gym membership), a 401k match. They let me expense my cell phone, offered short-term and long-term disability benefits and paid personal leave. This firm even has a generous parental leave policy, but I doubt that they would still employ me in my current circumstances.
When Julian was born with Down syndrome, the consulting career I knew was over. While our son is healthy, he still requires more than most typical work settings can tolerate. He has doctor’s appointments, school meetings, and speech therapy. Since he is only 4, these things are still fairly simple. But as he gets older, there will be more uncertainties and fewer child care options. For instance, It is unlikely that our after care provider will take on Julian when he goes to kindergarten; providers often cite “medical concerns” but in reality they are fearful of what it would mean to bring a child with a disability into their environment. They believe that their staff doesn’t have the resources. And at a certain point, child care can become more expensive than a family’s income can absorb.
By Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr
In November 2010, after more than a decade as a congregational rabbi, I sent my congregation the following letter:
A story is told that before a child is born, his soul peers down from the Heavenly Abode and selects the parents who will be right for him. Having voiced his choice to the Holy One, Blessed be God, the soul is then dispatched to his eagerly awaiting parents.
It is a great responsibility, then, to live up to the expectations and needs of our children who, as this legend teaches, have chosen us because of the belief that we will be the best parents for them.
As many of you know, our son, Ben, struggles every day with Asperger’s Syndrome. This developmental disorder affects every aspect of his life and, as he has gotten older, has presented an ever-growing list of challenges. It has become apparent to us and to his medical team that he requires far more support and attention from me than I am able to give while fulfilling my responsibilities to you. Read more…
By Kelly Buckland
What right as a human being is more fundamental than finding a mate and raising a family? But for parents with disabilities, they face a high risk for discrimination in keeping their children. Parents have their children removed routinely on the basis of parental disability, rather than due to abuse or neglect. Many states include disability inappropriately in their child custody statutes, including using inappropriate, outdated terminology to refer to a person’s disability; using imprecise definitions of disability; and often focusing on disability rather than parental behavior. Therefore, disability advocates around the country are pushing for the removal of outdated disability language in state codes.
By Olivia Kessler
Today, approximately 650 million people (almost 10 percent of the world’s population!) live with a disability, making them the world’s largest minority.
In July 2009, the United States signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD, which is based off the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), represents an international effort to bring the world closer to achieving the goals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities. On December 4, 2012, the United States Senate voted to ratify the treaty, but fell five votes short of the super-majority required for ratification.
With the 24th anniversary of the ADA coming up on July 26th, advocates are hoping to see the CRPD reappear in the Senate. If ratified, this treaty will not only open the world for the millions of Americans with disabilities seeking to serve, study, or travel abroad, but it will also promote American business, and reinforce American leadership on disability rights.
As Reform Jews, we have long supported the rights of people with disabilities, and understand the importance of working to remove barriers in our congregations, in our youth groups, in our summer camps and in our society.
Our tradition teaches us, ” You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” (Leviticus 19:14) Last summer, participants at the URJ Kutz Camp preached this message through a video they made in support of the ratification of the CRPD in the Senate. Participants stressed the importance of this treaty, urging Senators to ratify the Convention so policies and legislation embracing the rights and dignity of people with disabilities can be shaped domestically and abroad. I encourage you to watch the full video by clicking here.
NFTY’s Action Theme in the coming year illustrates our dedication towards including all people in our programs, from including people of all gender and sexual identities to including people of all abilities. We want to expand our commitment to inclusion to focus on all people seeking equal rights, equal access, and equal opportunity.
Today, we can also raise our voices and let our Senators know that we support the disability rights around the world. Tell Congress to ratify the UN Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities!
Olivia Kessler, a high school senior, served this past year as NFTY’s Mid-Atlantic Region Social Action Vice President. In October, on The International Day of the Girl, the United Nations recognized her for her hard work and outstanding commitment to social justice. In the upcoming year, she will serve as the NFTY North American Social Action Vice President while attending Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.