SOURCE: Kessler Foundation
WEST ORANGE, NJ--(Marketwired - Oct 28, 2013) - On October 24, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, convened leading disability advocates -- including injured former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand -- to discuss strategies to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The discussion was hosted at Kessler's West Orange campus. More than 35 representatives from a wide range of state and national disability organizations voiced their support of the Senator's efforts to garner the votes needed for ratification.
The CRPD provides a framework for the rights of individuals with disabilities across the world, based on values of dignity, respect, independence, and reasonable accommodations. The CRPD, which is based on American constitutional values and guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act, would set a standard that would benefit people with disabilities in other countries, as well as Americans with disabilities traveling and working abroad.
"At Kessler Foundation, we see firsthand the contributions that people with disabilities can make when given the opportunity," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "Through our rehabilitation research and our funding of disability employment initiatives, more people with disabilities are leading productive lives, participating more fully in their communities and the workplace. Shouldn't all people with disabilities enjoy the opportunities that most of us take for granted, no matter where they live? And shouldn't the United States be at the forefront of upholding this moral standard in the international community?"
To date, 143 countries have signed the treaty. In 2012, the U.S. Senate failed to pass the treaty, falling six votes short of the two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification. While the U.S. already has the strongest disability policies in the world and the signing of the treaty would not require any changes in domestic policy, Menendez says that its ratification would set an example for other countries and highlight the leadership of the U.S. in the rights of people with disabilities.
"We have the opportunity to help individuals with disabilities throughout the world live at home, with their families, instead of in an institution and to further their education and find a vocation," said Menendez. "Ratifying the Convention is also critical to ensuring that international travel is safe and accessible for the 58 million Americans with disabilities, including 5.8 million veterans. They fought for us, now we must fight for them."
LeGrand shared his personal experience. "People with disabilities can do great things, but traveling abroad is a huge concern," he said. "When we don't have to focus on obstacles, like lack of wheelchair access, we can focus on the real issues. Ratifying the Convention -- this is a no brainer. Together we should be able to get this passed."
According to Menendez, the treaty also provides a way to share American values and export products throughout the globe. Many accessible products are made in the U.S. and, with one billion people with disabilities worldwide, there is an opportunity for other countries to purchase these products and boost the economy. Nations that sign the CRPD may also have a competitive advantage in the international business community.
Among the panel were numerous Kessler Foundation grantees, including ARC of New Jersey, Easter Seals, Family Resource Network and G.I. Go Fund. They thanked Kessler Foundation for its foresight, guidance and financial support of initiatives that led to job training and employment for people with disabilities. The panelists also asked questions and developed ideas for assisting in obtaining the additional votes needed to pass the treaty.
Hearings on the CRPD are scheduled in Washington, D.C. for November 5 and November 12. Menendez asked for individuals to share their personal stories and support for the treaty with their senate representatives, the media and fellow advocates.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.