I have been involved with disability issues since 1982 when I woke up from a coma and was paralyzed from the neck down. In 1990, my family and I were living at a base that closed. Others had the opportunity to transfer overseas. Because of my disability, that was not an option. We were lucky to move to Offutt Air Force Base, but this was another reminder of the limitations my family and I face because of my disability.
My disability is a huge part of my life. But because of the work disability rights advocates have done, I have been able to enjoy nearly all the same rights as everyone else. Unfortunately, many of the 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities are currently subjected to inhumane conditions and denied basic civil rights. This is why I strongly support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The CRPD provides an outline for legislation and policies around the world modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ratifying this treaty would have no influence on any U.S. law but would export the model we've developed here.
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The treaty has bipartisan support and is supported by faith communities, business leaders and veterans' advocacy groups. It would allow Americans with disabilities to travel abroad without fear of discrimination. Most importantly, it would help ensure moral treatment for disabled people worldwide, many of whom are separated from their families and forced to live in institutions.
The United States has an obligation not to be a bystander on this critical human rights issue. That is why I, along with other Nebraska disability rights activists, am calling on Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer to give their support to ratification.
Kathy Hoell, Papillion, executive director, Nebraska Statewide Independent Living Council