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Blog Action Day 2013: Human Rights

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Today is Blog Action Day, a day where thousands of bloggers from around the world post about the same theme.  Human Rights is this year’s theme.

I decided to share the great drawing by a very talented freelance graphic artist named Gavin Aung Than, the creator of Zen Pencils.  (The drawing is found at the end of the posting.)  His drawing for Blog Action Day sparked me to write something about the importance of human rights for people with disabilities.  The United Nations have taken tremendous steps in advocating for human rights for people with disabilities on an international scale.  Its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol on December 13, 2006 allowed the status of those with disabilities throughout the world to be on the consciousness of world leaders.  On the opening day of the Convention, 82 nations signed the Convention, and 44 nations signed the Optional Protocol.  Those signatures were the highest numbers ever in the history of the UN.  The CRPD was the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the new century.

The UN has been working for decades to change the attitudes, eliminate mistreatment, and improve the quality of life of those with disabilities.  The UN’s work, and the implementation of the CRPD, helped to shift world views of people with disabilities from plain helpless and charity cases to being individuals with rights, and having the ability to proclaim ownership of those rights.  People with disabilities are more than capable of making decisions pertaining to their livelihood and health, and should have the opportunity to be fully active participants in society.

The UN’s CRPD adopted a broad categorization of what disability looks like and outlines that those with disabilities, regardless of the type or condition they may have, should enjoy all human rights and freedoms that able-bodied individuals take for granted.  The CRPD explains how all categorizes of rights are applicable to people with disabilities, and how those categorizes can be adapted to fit the unique needs of those with disabilities.  These adaptations will allow those with disabilities to truly express their rights, demonstrate how their rights may have been violated, and how to strengthen the protection of those rights.

Though the UN has done incredible work on the international level in the fight for equality, fairness, and just treatment for people with disabilities, there’s more work ahead that remains.  The United States has yet to sign the treaty pertaining to people with disabilities, which is disheartening since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provided the blueprint for the UN’s CRPD.  Other nations have been proactive when it comes to improving the well-being of their citizens with disabilities while the United States has been somewhat stagnant over the last decade.  There’s so much work remaining in this country as far as propelling people with disabilities into new heights where they are closer and closer to being equal as their able-bodied counterparts; we cannot afford to be stationary in our disability advocacy efforts.  If we were viewed as progressive during the second half of the 20th century when it comes to human rights for people with disabilities, how can we possibly neglect what we started?

I’m not willing to allow the disability rights movement to be merely a fad that’s to be left in the 20th century; we need to take more action in developing effective policies, programs, and services, and changing the erroneous views that society has about those with disabilities.  We as advocates, helping professionals, public figures, families, and neighbors cannot sit back and wait for someone to come along and demand more act – WE have to demand it, and keep fighting until we achieve it.  In other words, in order to create change, we have to RAMP OUR VOICES together to establish societal and political changes.

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(Courtesy of Zen Pencils. Click the image to view a larger version of it on Zen Pencil’s website.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

2 Comments

  1. Andrea S.

    Thanks for writing about the CRPD!

    To be precise: President Obama did in fact sign the CRPD for the US in 2009. However, what the US has not yet done is to RATIFY the treaty. (I think this is what you meant to say.) The decision to ratify is up to the U.S. Senate. Only the Senate needs to vote on this, not the House of Representatives.

    When a country “signs” a treaty (or becomes a “signatory” to the treaty), this is basically a way of saying that the country supports the general concept of the treaty and will be considering ratification in the future.

    Ratifying a treaty (and becoming a “states party” to it) is a more serious step: it means you will be complying with the treaty within your own legal domestic framework. Since US law is already largely consistent with the CRPD, this wouldn’t be onerous for us!

    We did lose the FIRST battle for US ratification when the Senate failed to pass ratification of the CRPD in their FIRST vote on December 4, 2012. We need a super-majority vote in the Senate to ratify an international treaty (two-thirds, meaning 67 votes out of 100 in support). We fell five votes short of this in December (61 votes out of 99 — one Senator was on medical leave for all of 2012 and couldn’t vote that day)

    But, this is not over! More than 700 US disability, veterans, faith, business, international development, and human rights organizations have been pushing for the Senate to take up this issue again in 2013. The first step is for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing on the CRPD. They have not yet scheduled a date for this to occur, so people have been asking them to do this (key points of contact: Senator Menendez and Senator Corker, people anywhere in the US can contact them because as members of the Foreign Relations Committee they represent ALL Americans). Next, following the hearing, the Committee will need to vote for the treaty to go to the floor. Then the full Senate will need to have more discussion on the CRPD, then they will have to vote on it.

    For more information on the still very active campaign for US ratification of the CRPD, check these resources:

    http://disabilitytreaty.org
    CRPD action alert updates: http://usicd.org/index.cfm/crpdupdates
    (both of these are from the U.S. International Council on Disabilities–USICD is one of the key lead organizations in the campaign for US ratification of the CRPD)

    Resources for advocates:
    USICD’s collection of resources: http://usicd.org/index.cfm/tools-and-resources
    More resources: http://bit.ly/Resources4CRPD
    And a Facebook group for grassroots advocates: http://facebook.com/RatifyCRPD

    • Vilissa

      Hi Andrea. Thanks so much for responding. When I wrote about “signing” the Convention, I was referring to the Congressional body failing to recognize the treaty, even though the President had indeed signed it in 2009. It’s amazing that President Obama had to provide the United States’ signatory on the treaty 3 years later its creation. I believe that that alone says a lot about the previous administration’s commitment (or lack thereof) to the disability rights movement.

      The current hesitation of Congress to acknowledge the significance of CRPD strongly correlates to what I said about the United States’ lack of progress in the fight for basic human rights. Though there are hundreds of organizations, and thousands, if not millions, of advocates and allies that exist, if our political leaders fail to stand behind the fight that we’re all embarking on, then our efforts will not progress further as they could. It’s another remainder of how vital it is for those who have voting power to elect officials who will work to ensure that ALL Americans have the resources they need, and the same chance to prosper, regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, orientation, and ability.

      Thank you for providing the resources for advocates like myself to review. That was greatly appreciated.

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