Today, December 3, 2013, is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Advocates are using the occasion to call on the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
“December 3 is a poignant reminder of the fighting spirit of so many, as we mark the 21st International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” said Judith E. Heumann, special advisor for international disability rights, U.S. Department of State, in a Huffington Post op-ed. “It’s a day when we reaffirm that the struggle to ensure the rights of every person does not end at our borders, but extends to every country and every community.
There are approximately one billion people with disabilities around the world and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. It is also estimated that four out of 10 American travelers or their companions have disabilities, yet they still face barriers and discrimination abroad.
“This year under the theme ‘Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all,’ the international community is calling for a global effort to make physical environments, transportation and information accessible to everyone and to change attitudes that fuel stigmatization and discrimination,” said John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, president of the UN General Assembly’s 68th session. “What the global community needs now are tools for action and change, in order to realize an inclusive society where everyone’s rights are protected and equal opportunities are supported.”
The CRPD is an international disability treaty that provides a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. It has been ratified by 138 countries, not including the United States, although it was inspired by U.S. leadership on disability rights and is modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protects individuals with physical and mental disabilities against discrimination in areas such as employment, public accommodations, and transportation.
The disability treaty’s first article states that its purpose is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”