Opinion | Opinion

Op-Ed: Step up for civil rights treaty for people with disabilities

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Several important Jewish organizations are standing behind a critical international treaty to support civil rights, dignity and hope for people with disabilities. However, grass-roots help is urgently needed to get it approved by the U.S. Senate before the political season overtakes the ability to get things done in Washington.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is under consideration by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is already supported by the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Rabbinical Assembly, The Jewish Federations of North America, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Women’s Rabbinic Network. But you can make a difference by calling your senator at (202) 225-3121.

The convention realizes an international effort to achieve global goals of economic self-sufficiency, equality of opportunity, full participation and independent living for people with disabilities. These goals are enshrined in our own Americans with Disabilities Act, a model for the convention. The convention will enable Americans with disabilities working or traveling abroad, such as veterans or members of military families with disabilities, to access the same protections as they enjoy in America.

No new legislation will be required by U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, nor does the convention impose any new costs. In fact, as noted, much of the treaty is grounded in American laws. However, American action is needed for international leadership in this area.

America must move quickly to ratify the treaty, and we need to do our part. The CRPD treaty was launched under President George W. Bush and sent to the Senate by President Obama. Already there is some momentum created by the announcement of bipartisan support of Senators Durbin, McCain, Barrasso, Udall, Coons and Moran.

Ratifying the treaty during this Congress will enable the U.S. to participate in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee, an advisory group that is a forum for idea sharing related to disability policy. The committee represents a valuable opportunity for continued American leadership and influence on this issue. Only those countries that have ratified the convention can serve on the committee, and American leadership in this arena is critical to the ultimate success of the treaty.

The American disability rights community has united behind ratification of the convention. It’s time for us to say “hineni” — here I am — and stand to ensure full participation and access for people with disabilities the world over.

(Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the parent of a child with special needs, is the founder and president of Laszlo Strategies.)