The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities International Conference
American Public Transportation Association
This conference was organized to provide information regarding the CRPD’s history, context, content and status, as well as explore aspects of the CRPD’s successful implementation in countries seeking to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life.
This report was drawn from transcriptions of oral summaries provided in closing each day’s proceedings.
The opening reception
for the conference was intended to celebrate the 19th anniversary of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), herald the Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and honor the longtime public service
career of Mr. Norm Mineta. The program
of speakers included figures that have served the
Representatives of the
three host organizations provided opening remarks and reflected on the passage
the Obama Administration, White House Staff Member Kareem Dale spoke about the
Administration’s celebration of the anniversary of the
Congressman James L. Oberstar of
The following quote was shared with the audience by USICD President
Marca Bristo, and is attributed to Mr. Mineta during his time representing the
13th Congressional district of California in the U.S. House of
Representatives, delivered on the House floor in support of passage of the
“At the core of this legislation is fairness and equity. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights measure that addresses the barriers of ignorance, prejudice, and inaccessibility that individuals with disabilities confront each day of their lives. Americans believe that the time is now for clear, concise protections against the strain of discrimination which individuals with disabilities must endure on a daily basis.”
Day One Proceedings
The conference was opened with welcoming remarks from representatives
of the three sponsoring organizations.
The speakers reflected on the progress of people with disabilities in
Panelists in this first plenary discussed the history, context, and
current status of the CRPD. Multiple
speakers emphasized how the CRPD drafting process brought the international
disability community together in ways not seen before. The process further served to effectuate
changes in the attitudes of many of the delegates and diplomats at the United
Nations, and helped move the process forward in ways not anticipated at its
inception. For example, the initiatives
undertaken to enhance the accessibility and inclusiveness of the negotiations
have served to alter the methods utilized by the U.N. in many of its
Maria Veronica Reina talked about the formation of the international disability caucus and how that coalition worked together effectively in unprecedented ways. She emphasized two important challenges to this work: the first being the need to monitor implementation of the CRPD; the second being the critical need for education and outreach. People with disabilities, especially those in developing countries, must know their rights under the convention and that they are stakeholders in the process.
Craig Mokhiber spoke of the monitoring and accountability mechanisms in the CRPD, which ensure that the convention has real meaning and legal obligation. He noted that the CRPD represents the first time that explicit language has been included in a human rights convention addressing monitoring at both national and international levels. He further observed that the monitoring process is a living process; ongoing and critical to the treaty’s implementation.
Eric Rosenthal explained the process of
The general discussion addressed how the CRPD moves us past a charity model towards one that fosters greater equality for people with disabilities through an understanding of the social model. The participants also discussed the interaction between gender, family, children's issues and children's rights, and the complementarity of these, and the treaties addressing such issues, with the CRPD.
Participants also discussed the partnerships that will be essential to realization of the vision of the CRPD, specifically, the partnerships between civil society, States Parties and national human rights institutes. Such entities will need to engage each other from ratification through implementation and monitoring. Shadow reporting offers just one way in which civil society groups can maintain their engagement beyond their current activism around ratification.
Objective: To provide an overview of the structure and contents of the CRPD.
Katherine Guernsey addressed the essential components of the convention itself, taking participants through the various articles in a comprehensive way. She emphasized that there is an explicit role in the CRPD for people with disabilities themselves, in monitoring the convention and in the decision-making processes of respective countries.
In reviewing specific articles, she discussed the concept of access to justice and how marginalization on the basis of disability can result in lack of access. She noted that the convention includes strong provisions on living independently and living in the community, aimed at making such concepts achievable. On international development, she talked about the treaty addressing the reality of the lives of people with disabilities living in poverty. She also noted that if development and human rights actors do not address the broad variety of populations with disabilities, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals will not be possible. As a guide to development actors, the treaty speaks to more than giving money to developing countries, but also references information sharing and technical assistance. She also talked about statistics and data collection and monitoring and CRPD’s implementation. She noted that the conference itself is an example of international cooperation through information sharing between representatives of different countries.
Former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater delivered the keynote
address of the conference luncheon. Mr.
Slater shared memories from his time in the U.S. Department of Transportation
related to advances in the inclusion of and accessibility planning for
transportation users with disabilities.
He reflected on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the great strides
American society has made in access and inclusion, and the obligation we share
to continue moving forward. He acknowledged
how the CRPD casts a new vision and standard for the global disability
community’s advancement, and the importance of
Objective: To provide international perspectives on the need for ratification of the CRPD and next steps in implementation
The second plenary convened international perspectives on the need for the convention and the next steps on implementation. Moderator Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo introduced the discussion with both a call for celebration and a caveat to be very vigilant that implementation becomes a reality. She made the point that there are already consequences in place because of the signature and ratification in many countries, especially in the development arena. Many aid agencies are already changing their policies and examining how to implement the convention. She also spoke about her experience traveling, seeing how disabled people on the ground, who want to share the treaty’s vision with those in their countries, were unofficially translating the convention into local languages.
Ambassador Luis Gallegos talked about the importance of American
participation in the current ratification process, and how important it was to
have people with disabilities be the subject matter experts during the
negotiations. He talked specifically
Antoine Averseng of
Objective: To provide insight into the importance of the CRPD in improving the lives of people with disabilities globally
Two longtime leaders in the
One of the articles in the convention is about inclusive education. The CRPD confirms that people with disabilities have a right to education just as others do.
They both emphasized that in realizing the convention, it is not just about the U.S. sharing its experience in disability inclusion with the world, but about partnerships and the U.S. learning from and moving forward with the benefit of international experience. Such partnerships should extend to a wide range of issues, including the enjoyment of human rights by women and children, and also global poverty – all of which constitute great challenges facing people with disabilities and therefore society.
Left to Right: Judith Heumann, Secretary Rodney Slater, Donna McNamee,
Julie Cunningham, Michael Winter, and Billy Altom.
Day Two Proceedings
Objective: To examine what opportunities exist for US actors to assist in promoting livable communities in other countries in the context of CRPD implementation.
examined opportunities that exist for
Glen White’s discussion of independent living (IL)
highlighted five important concepts associated with IL: consideration; capacity
building; communication; cultural competence; and continuation. He noted that there is still a huge learning
curve in the
Universal design was discussed from the perspective of practitioner Christopher Hart. He noted that individuals are more or less disabled based on the environment they inhabit and statistics are only meaningful up to that point. Examples of case studies being implemented around the world were discussed. He emphasized that people with disabilities should be consulted as experts in the design process, and that the design dramatically improves when you include people with disabilities throughout that process.
Patricia Morrissey discussed the principles of accessible healthcare in the context of CRPD Article 25. These principles include promoting wellness among people with disabilities; making all community settings accessible; including people with disabilities in health surveys; training professionals in working with people with disabilities in their healthcare; and always recognizing that people with disabilities are, and should be, central players in the discussions about their health. In the participant discussion period that followed the plenary a suggestion was made to hold an international working conference on accessible healthcare as a way to begin discussion of these important issues.
Article 28, Adequate Standard of Living, was discussed by Richard Balkus, including how the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) is addressing issues present in Article 28, including the right to continuous improvement; the benefit equity principles at SSA which parallel those in Article 28; program integrity; and getting people social security benefits on time. He also outlined a number of initiatives underway at SSA: 1) to get people to work; 2) to transition youth into secondary education and employment; and 3) SSA’s work specifically with OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) on best practices and transition policies.
Objective: To examine implementation and funding Mechanisms in the context of CRPD Article 32 (International Cooperation)
Rakesh Nangia discussed the importance of sharing knowledge. He emphasized that international cooperation isn't just about money; it's also about information sharing. He noted that the World Bank has a pivotal role to play through its Human Development Network, which incorporates disability and development, and raises awareness about disability and development. He discussed how the Global Partnership on Disability and Development, under the World Bank, is facilitating dialogue around disability and development issues within the international disability community.
Lloyd Feinberg discussed the activities of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID’s activities were highlighted in the context of Article 32, emphasizing their most important partners in the implementation of Article 32 are DPOs (disabled peoples organizations) around the world. He referenced the importance of facilitating, supporting, capacity building, information sharing, and training on disability and development, and the provision of technical and economic assistance to other countries. He noted that the President’s signature of the CRPD will be an accelerator for this work, and will help develop action plans for countries where USAID works.
Akiko Ito focused on implementation of the CRPD and the work
currently underway by the United Nations.
She also noted the importance of the incorporation of disability in the
international development framework and in the UN Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs). She recommended that the
The value of international cooperation is one that is infused throughout this treaty, and is now in the process of being created and implemented. Partnership is happening at an intergovernmental level and at an intersectional level between governmental and nongovernmental organizations. It is happening at the international level, and it's also happening on a person-to-person level and at exchanges like this one, where researchers, DPO leaders, and development actors can come together and build the bridges that become the foundation for implementing this treaty. Advocacy is another aspect of international cooperation - the voice of civil society in changing global society for the realization of the vision of this treaty.
The transformative process that occurred at the U.N. in drafting this treaty is now transforming the way countries are implementing this treaty. Ambassador Gallegos mentioned change on a global level that's larger than this community, and larger than humanity. The language and the framework of the CRPD is moving global society into the 21st century as the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, and is including people with disabilities in this global change.
A key point made was that the CRPD is not creating special rights for individuals with disabilities but rather is creating a framework and a language about basic human rights as applied to individuals with disabilities. This will ensure that governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society can work together, cooperatively, to realize the vision of this treaty and to prevent the denial or lack of access that individuals with disabilities encounter so frequently, to mitigate invisibility, to stop the lack of voice or the silencing of voices, and actually to give a voice, to provide venues for participation and access, and opportunities for inclusion.
This is really about changing societies, which takes time. The treaty crafts a vision for us, as partners with each other, to work towards leading our global society toward realizing.
To do this
work, ratification is not necessarily required because we can live the values
of the treaty in our daily work. We're
then leading our societies to realize the reality of it. The excitement about President Obama's
announcement of signature of this treaty does not minimize the knowledge that
the political process of the
Yoshiko Dart always reminds us to lead on – we should all lead our global society to the full inclusion and realization of human rights for people with disabilities.
This ratification won't happen without us. The work that AID is doing, the new policy guiding the World Bank, those things were achieved through hard work way below the radar, by the board of the United States International Council on Disabilities, the National Council on Disability, and other advocates in the community. If we've been able to move the bar that far, we can achieve the goal of ratification. We need youth to get involved in this process, as they are the next generation of advocates.
Back Row, Left to Right: David
Morrissey, Jules Eason, Chelsea Wright, Mary Leary, Secretary Norman Mineta,
Kareem Dale, Mrs. Oberstar, Congressman James Oberstar, Julienne Chen, Yoshiko