ADA Inspires Global Expansion of Disability Rights

July 24, 2015

25 years later, we should be proud that the ADA triggered an expansion of human rights and protections globally

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Logo for 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): ADA is spelled out with the number

(Washington, D.C.) When disability advocates started talking about the need for an international disability rights treaty, the frame of reference was the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The legislation signed into law by President H.W. Bush, on July 26, 1990—the ADA—was the catalyst and the foundation on which the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was built.  Now is an appropriate time to acknowledge that the ADA and CRPD are close siblings.

USICD President Patricia Morrissey, Ph.D, attended an ADA reception at the White House on July 20 and said:

"Everyone who did the work to get the ADA passed was in the East Room for President Obama’s address, and, as the President stated, ‘We’ve come a long way and we have a long way to go.’  While the reception was a fitting time to mark 25 years of human and disability rights achievements, it is now a clarion to continue this work and demonstrate the obligation to offer the spirit of the ADA in the form of the CRPD to the One Billion people globally who need it.  You know, we can do this if we try!"

Now, over 151 countries have ratified the CRPD. Conversations worldwide have shifted from the ideas about the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability, equal opportunity, and reasonable accommodation, to how do we implement these concepts? How do we make them a matter of common practice?

Instead of a four-pillars approach in the ADA (employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunication relay services), the U.N. delegations from 190 plus countries, over six years, discussed, debated, and agreed on 40 plus articles that lay out requirements and expectations in specific contexts (e.g., health care, education, employment, political participation, public awareness, right of mobility) and emphasized certain people with disabilities (children, women). This direction was necessary as developing countries said they needed specificity and emphasis in order to make their governments respond appropriately.

While the disability and human rights communities rightfully celebrate the 25th anniversary all over Washington and the nation, the fact remains that the universal value of these rights and protections will make this world a better place.  It is our hope that someday soon the United States will join the nations that have ratified the CRPD.