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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

CRPD Push: Your Senators Need to Hear from You This August!

Source: US International Council on Disabilities

Advocates rally for ratification of the CRPD in the 2014 NCIL March to Capitol Hill. Signs include: Ratify CRPD Now; CRPD – Don’t Believe the Myths; Disability Touches Everybody; Free Our People; Disability Rights for My Sister; and NCIL’s Banner: “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat to Justice Everywhere” – Martin Luther King, Jr.It’s not over until it’s over! We need your help. We cannot stop now – the world is watching.

Your Senators need to continue to hear from you and know that you support the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)!

Show that the community is behind this treaty and that we want the process to keep moving forward to a Floor vote in September.

Visit USICD’s citizen action portal: to call your Senators!

They need to hear from the Independent Living community, or our movement will not succeed.

CRPD Disability Treaty on the Move

By Alexa Wohlfort, Summer NCIL Policy Intern

First, a big thank you to all those who called their Senators, especially in the last few days! You made a difference that was felt. Thanks to all of your incredible support, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez called for a markup in order to hear and give the chance for Senate Committee members to approve amendments or changes to the treaty to make its meaning clearer (also called Reservations Understandings and Declarations – RUDS). Many Committee members emphasized that, as a leader and example in disability rights legislation, the fact that 147 countries have already ratified the treaty before the US discredits our reputation as a human rights leader among nations.

Alexa Wohlfort - NCIL Policy InternIssues brought up concerned the language of the CRPD and its intended meaning, and continue to revolve around the same main concerns. First, the Committee heard and voted on an amendment / RUD to clarify the treaty’s language on education to say that it expressly does not prohibit parental rights to home school children but only ensures that children with disabilities be afforded the same right to an accessible public education that children without disabilities have.

Other Senators debated strongly whether the treaty should expressly state that it is not meant to denigrate the authority of, or as was bantered about in the meeting yesterday, “diminish the sovereignty of” any country that ratifies it. However, the treaty is simply a document that establishes that the countries that ratify it believe that people with and without disabilities should have the same rights and access to goods and services as those without disabilities. It is not meant to be an avenue for the United Nations to take away anyone’s access to education or healthcare; to force unwanted procedures on people with disabilities; or to prevent someone from seeing a healthcare provider of their choice. The treaty simply states that the undersigned countries agree that persons with disabilities should have the same access to all aspects of healthcare as people who do not have disabilities. It should not be used as a vehicle to publicize and debate hot-button issues such as abortion rights and parental rights to make healthcare and educational decisions for their children.

Amid much debate, the treaty was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 12-6, which could result in a full vote by the Senate next week. The passage of CRPD at this time would be a great way to celebrate the 24th Anniversary of the ADA next week. Let’s take the treaty to the finish line. Contact your Senator. Tell them to stop the antics of unnecessary debate that is holding up passage of this important document and inhibiting this important step toward equitable rights for persons with disabilities across the world. We must unite to make ourselves heard. Tell your Senator to let the US remain a role model for disability rights and to ensure victory for the international disability community. “VOTE YES. Ratify CRPD NOW!”

CRPD Passes Out of Foreign Relations Committee; Community Call Today at 1:00 Eastern

Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Join advocates from across the country for a final national call to learn what you can do to help pass the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)!

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesNational Call on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • Wednesday, July 23rd, 1:00 p.m. Eastern
  • Dial: 1-800-920-7487
  • Code: 4837166#
  • CART

Big News

CRPD Successfully Passed Out of the Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, July 23!

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted the Disability Treaty out of committee! We’ve crossed this difficult hurdle but we are running out of time!

We need a floor vote now! Senator Menendez and the disability, veterans, business, and faith communities are not willing to throw in the towel, but your actions in the next week are crucial to gaining the support we need.

Take part in three events this week to help us cross the finish line!

Veteran Press Conference: Join Senators Dole, McCain, Ayotte, Kirk and Harkin as well as leading veteran organizations to hear why veterans support the disability treaty!

  • Wednesday, July 23rd, 10:30 a.m. Eastern
  • Dirksen 430

National Call on CRPD: Join advocates from around the country for a final national call to learn what you can do to pass the CRPD!

  • Wednesday, July 23rd, 1:00 p.m. Eastern

National Rally on CRPD: Join advocates from across the country for a rally on the National Mall for CRPD! Watch for more details coming soon. If you’re not located in DC, you can take part by visiting your Senators in-state offices and expressing your support!

  • Tuesday, July 29th, 12:45 p.m. Eastern

Your Senators need to continue to hear from you and understand that you support the CRPD! Show the community is behind this treaty and that we want the process to keep moving forward to a Floor vote!

Senator Reid also needs to hear from us that we want a floor vote now!

Visit USICD’s citizen action portal:, to call your Senators! They must hear from the Independent Living Movement now or we will not succeed.

Senator Menendez Schedules Senate CRPD Mark-Up for Tuesday, July 22!

Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

You made a difference! Now is the time to get the CRPD Ratified!

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesThank you to everyone who called their Senators this month and expressed support for the CRPD! Based on your incredible show of support, Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has scheduled a mark-up of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for Tuesday, July 22, 2014!

Treaty opponents continue to use scare tactics to frighten people over fictitious dangers. We must each share the truth with our Senators!

Your Senators need to continue to hear from you and understand that you support the CRPD! Visit USICD’s citizen action portal,, to call your Senators!

They need to hear from the Independent Living Movement now, or we will not succeed. We must show that our community is behind this treaty and that we want the process to keep moving forward to a floor vote!

We cannot stop now. The word is watching.

New Kindle Book – A Moral Imperative: U.S. Ratification of the CRPD

Cover - A Moral Imperative - U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Kindle Edition)A new Kindle book on the CRPD titled “A Moral Imperative: U.S. Ratification of the CRPD” by Patricia Morrissey is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Wake Up the Senate this Independence Day: Time Is Running Out!

Source: US International Council on Disabilities

Time is running out. Now is the time for the Senate to act! Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – – Twitter Hashtag CRPDWe need to sound the alarm across the Senate to free the treaty now! Let your Senator know this release of the treaty must occur!

This time of the year is significant to all the disability community. We have just celebrated the anniversary of Olmstead and soon it will be the anniversary of the ADA.

Tell your Senator this week at 4th of July picnics, parades, town-halls. Call often in July and spread the word: We will not wait any longer. The time is now!

Visit to take action!

Action Alert: Tell Every Senator That Now Is the Time to Ratify the CRPD!

The Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Bond v. United States! Now is the time to act.

Every member of the U.S. Senate must hear from their constituents that now is the time to pass the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

CRPD LogoSee the press release prepared by the US International Council on Disabilities (USICD), then visit to contact your Senator today!

The Message:

  • The Bond case has been decided. Now is the time to ratify CRPD!

Pro Tip: You do not have to be an expert on the Bond case. What’s important is that we each send the message that the CRPD must be ratified now!

Disability Advocates Call for Senate Action on Treaty Following Supreme Court Ruling in Bond Case

US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Bond v. United States. The unanimous judgment supports what disability advocates and legal scholars had long contended: that the Bond case is not an obstacle to ratifying the Disability Treaty. The coalition of over 800 disability, veteran, and faith organizations working in support of the Treaty today call on the Senate to proceed promptly to ratification of the Disability Treaty.

CRPD Sticker: Ratify CRPD Yes!Opponents of the Disability Treaty have claimed that the Senate should not take up ratification until the Supreme Court had announced a decision in the Bond case. “The Supreme Court has spoken. Bond is no impediment to ratification of the Disability Treaty, and the Chief Justice has given the Senate a clear blueprint on how to ratify a treaty while preserving existing states’ rights,” said Marca Bristo, President of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. “It’s now time to restore American leadership on disability rights by moving forward immediately with ratification of the Disability Treaty. One billion people worldwide with disabilities have waited long enough.”

The Bond case involved a challenge to a federal statute implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was enacted after that Convention was ratified.

However, the disability treaty is modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed by Congress long before the Disability Treaty was even ratified, and no new legislation is necessary for the US to comply with the treaty. This was confirmed in a declaration the Senate Foreign Relations Committee inserted into its proposed resolution of advice and consent in 2012, which states, “The Senate declares that, in view of the reservations to be included in the instrument of ratification, current United States law fulfills or exceeds the obligations of the Convention for the United States of America.”

In a November 2013 hearing on the disability treaty in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former White House Counsel Boyden Gray, testified that maintain the Federal-State balance could be addressed through appropriate Senate reservations. Also conservative international law scholars, Timothy Meyer of the University of Georgia and Curtis A. Bradley of Duke Law School agreed that appropriate reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs) to the Treaty could achieve this goal. Such RUDs have been adopted for treaties ratified by Presidents of both parties throughout history and have never been challenged.

The Supreme Court’s Bond opinion highlights that when Congress is silent regarding the Federal – State balance, Federal Courts will resolve any ambiguities by assuming that the statute does not intrude upon traditional state jurisdiction – including a statute that implements a treaty. For the CRPD, the Senate will explicitly enact a reservation that maintains the Federal-State balance, which will reinforce this principle. It is obvious from today’s decision that such a reservation will have the binding force of law and will be upheld by the Courts.

The Senate can take this Supreme Court decision, and confidently draft Reservations that will uphold (as the Court put it) the “basic principles of federalism embodied in the Constitution.”

More information:

Tell Senator Harkin What the CRPD Means to You!

Senator Harkin needs our help advancing the dialogue on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)!

The advocacy for ratification of the CRPD continues in Washington, DC, but our message will only be successful if it is delivered by you. NCIL members are part of the strongest and most effective grassroots network the disability community has.

NCIL Policy Intern Ashton Rosin holds the sign - I am a student, I am an advocate, I support CRPD RatificationSenator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) needs our help as he works for ratification over the next few weeks. Senator Harkin, our community’s most steadfast ally, needs your stories about what the CRPD means to you and your community. The power of your everyday stories is critical to ratification.

Senator Harkin has created a video that contains information on the CRPD and a request that you send your stories about travel, study, or work around the world so that he may share these stories with Congress. If you have ever traveled, studied, or worked abroad, or if you tried to travel, study, or work abroad but encountered barriers, please consider sharing your story.

Share this message with your family, co-workers, and other community members who may be interested, and use the hashtags #ADAfortheworld or #DisabilitiesTreaty on social media.  [Read more…]

Call to Action: Senator Corker Abandons Disability Community; Walks away from Negotiations

Bob CorkerNCIL is saddened to report that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) walked away from the negotiations on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

He caved to the extreme far right and abdicated his leadership on this bipartisan issue.

Senator Corker made the judgment that the disability community is less powerful than the Astroturf special interest groups pedaling lies against the CRPD. If we do not correct that notion, he will be right.

It is time to hold him responsible. It’s time to let Senator Corker know that we won’t be cast aside like second class citizens.

We will not stand idly by as he hides behind false constitutional arguments. We will hold him responsible for perpetuating far rights myths, lies, and exaggerations.

We are Independent Living. When it comes to protecting the human rights of people with disabilities, we don’t forget and we don’t forgive. We are 57 million strong!

Act Now

Call Senator Corker’s DC and Tennessee offices. You can contact Senator Corker at 202-224-3344, or at

He must hear our message loud and clear: Restart the negotiations! Let him know that we will not go away!

Please help spread the word by forwarding this message onto your lists of friends and colleagues so they can join us in sending a message to Senator Corker.


Lump of CoalSenator Corker’s Christmas Gift to One Billion People with Disabilities: A Big Lump of Coal

Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Before heading home to spend the holidays with his family, Senator Bob Corker sent a message to the 57.8 million Americans with disabilities, 5.5 million disabled American veterans, and one billion people worldwide with disabilities: appeasing the far-right wing of his caucus is more important than supporting their rights and dignity by supporting the Disability Treaty.

Inspired by U.S. leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities, the Disability Treaty is designed to be a framework for creating laws and policies throughout the world that support the rights and dignity of the billion people worldwide living with disabilities. Ratification of the treaty is supported by a strong and diverse coalition of over 800 disability organizations, veterans groups, business groups, and faith organizations, as well over one thousand Tennesseans who recently signed a petition calling on the Senate to ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

Marca Bristo, President of the US International Council on Disabilities expressed disappointment with Senator Corker’s decision not to support the treaty: “I am shocked and dismayed that Senator Corker would abruptly cut off negotiations surrounding this crucial treaty and fail to support it. Doing so is a betrayal of the millions of Americans with disabilities, professionals, people of faith, and veterans who both need and want the Disability Treaty to be ratified. Our community is strong and committed, and we will continue to press forward in our work to support this treaty.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, added, “By caving to the most extreme isolationists in our nation, Senator Corker has undermined the United States’ reputation as a beacon of freedom for the world. The U.S. is a model for the advancement of transparency and human rights for all, and today’s statement by Senator Corker puts that status in considerable jeopardy. Conspiracy theories about how the CRPD would undermine American sovereignty are not based in reality, but only in the rhetoric of those who wish to fear monger and build walls between us and the rest of the world.  We strongly urge Senator Corker to join the mainstream and to honor the dignity of all Americans by reconsidering this position.”

Heather Ansley, Vice President of VetsFirst, said, “Despite assertions to the contrary, ratification of the CRPD will not endanger U.S. sovereignty. We must not let misinformation limit equal opportunities for veterans and all people living with disabilities. By failing to support CRPD, Senator Corker is failing to support the millions of disabled American veterans who fought bravely in service of this country and its Constitution. To use that very Constitution as a reason not to support the treaty is a betrayal of their service.”