Pangrazio: Senate has left America’s disability community dangling on a hook - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Pangrazio: Senate has left America’s disability community dangling on a hook

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Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014 3:30 pm

he U.S. Senate has turned fish into foul and left America’s disability community dangling on the hook.

Last month, senators ratified four treaties including one that dealt with international cooperation on rules relating to catching fish. Ratifying treaties is certainly among the Senate’s primary functions. In fact, though the president can make treaties, it is the Senate — with a two-thirds vote — that has the final word.

As blogger Hayes Brown pointed out, those treaties were the first to be ratified since 2010, but not the first to reach the Senate floor. In 2012, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyle was among 38 senators voting against the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Sen. John McCain voted in favor, but even with his support, the treaty fell five votes short of ratification as former Sen. Bob Dole watched aghast from his wheelchair on the chamber floor.

CRPD is an international treaty inspired by U.S. leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities and a vital framework for creating legislation and policies worldwide that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities.

More than 700 American disability and allied organizations support CRPD as do, we expect, the largest percentage of the 57.8 million Americans with disabilities, 5.5 million disabled American veterans and 1 billion with disabilities around the world.

Now that Sen. Jeff Flake has replaced the retired Kyl, it’s his turn to vote, but he won’t disclose his position on the disability treaty.

Last week, a group of disabled individuals in Phoenix joined with colleagues in states across the nation to deliver fish bowls full of fish crackers to offices of senators who voted against the treaty. Our quiet, peaceful events were our way of reminding those senators of the importance of their vote when the issue comes again sometime this summer.

Despite misinformation being pushed out by groups opposed to CRPD, ratification will not result in any international authority or require any changes in U.S. law or policy or force us to relinquish any authority whatsoever.

The treaty, based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, is simply good policy and maintains U.S. leadership in addressing disability rights and eliminating disability discrimination throughout the world without having to change U.S. laws or increase the budget.

As a quadriplegic and wheelchair user for nearly 35 years and an advocate for the disability community, I urge Sen. Flake and his colleagues who have already voted against CRPD to reconsider based on the treaty’s importance and not take the bait.

• Phil Pangrazio is president and chief executive officer of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL). For more information, visit www.abil.org.

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