USICD Thanks Rhonda Neuhaus for Her Global Advocacy

USICD joins many colleagues in expressing appreciation for the tireless advocacy of Rhonda Neuhaus.  As the policy analyst for the pioneering Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), a USICD member organization, Rhonda has been deeply involved with issues ranging from inclusive education to community living, and her advoacy for U.S. ratification of the CRPD has been boundless.  Collaborating with USICD, she has helped build a network of advocates across the country, presented to countless audiences, and traveled the halls of Congress tirelessly to achieve ratification.  We are so grateful and inspired by her hard work and commitment.  She has helped build a movement!

Rhonda leads advocates on Capitol Hill

Pictured above, Rhonda leads advocates on Capitol Hill.

As Rhonda now shifts to focus on consulting in the field, fostering other personal endeavors, and taking advantage of a Fulbright Award she has received, her friends and colleagues celebrate all that she has done and is yet to do on behalf of people with disabilities and our families around the world.  We wish her much success on her next fulfilling journey in life.  Lead on, Rhonda!

International Day Gala Scrapbook

USICD Celebrates Senator Tom Harkin and International Disability Rights Champion Gerard Quinn

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, the Eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities hosted our gala at the U.S. Institute of Peace, honoring Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a life-long disability rights champion.  Senator Harkin is retiring from the U.S. Congress after 40 years of service.  Senator Tom Harkin is the leading advocate for disability rights in Congress.  He was the Senate author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.  On working on the ADA, Harkin states:

Working on the ADA, I heard stories from individuals who had to crawl on their hands and knees to go up a flight of stairs, who couldn’t ride a bus because there wasn’t a lift, and who could not even cross the street in a wheelchair because there were no curb cuts.  Before the ADA, millions of Americans were denied access to their own communities - and to the American dream.”

Professor Gerard Quinn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law & Policy National University of Ireland (Galway) will be awarded for his global advocacy of the rights of persons with disabilities.  Professor Quinn has served in prominent positions representing human rights as well as elder and disability rights with the Council of Europe, European Union, Irish Human Rights Commission, U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, and many other bodies.  USICD is honoring Professor Quinn for his outstanding global work in the field of persons with disabilities.

USICD wishes to extend special thanks to its corporate sponsors: JPMorgan Chase, Platinum Sponsor; other corporate sponsors: AT&T, IBM, Wal-Mart, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Alston Bird, LLP.  Additionally, National Organization on Disability, Easter Seals, and, The Viscardi Center also sponsored the gala.

National Disability Leaders Outraged Over Senate Inaction on Disability Treaty


December 3, 2014 – Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, American disability leaders express outrage over the Senate’s inaction on ratification of the international Disability Treaty (the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD).  As the end of the 114th Congress nears, it has become clear to disability leaders that the Senate will not pass the resolution for ratification of the CRPD this year.

Ratification is supported by over 800 disability, civil rights, and faith groups, as well as over 20 of the top veterans’ service organizations and many major businesses as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is because not only would it protect the human rights of millions of people in other countries, it would also open the world to wounded warriors and other Americans with disabilities who wish to work, study, or travel abroad, and level the international playing field for American corporations.

Marca Bristo, retiring President of the United States International Council on Disabilities and long-time leader of the coalition for ratification of CRPD, said: “Unfortunately, the Senate chose to let politics, lies and misinformation rule the day instead of the rights of more than one billion of the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations.  We deeply appreciate those Senators, both Democrat and Republican, who did the right thing and stood with the disability community on this important treaty.”

Susan Henderson, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said: “Ratification of the Disability treaty would have created an opportunity for the United States, which has led the world in recognizing and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, to provide leadership at the UN in the global fight for the rights of people with disabilities. It is shameful that the Senate is choosing to let this opportunity pass us by.”

Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, said: “Disability rights legislation has always been bipartisan given that disability can and does impact anyone.  We regret that such unity for our human rights has gone missing on Capitol Hill, but are staunchly unified in our conviction for universal rights for all including one billion people with disabilities worldwide.”

Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind is disappointed with the failure to ratify this common-sense treaty, which would, among other things, protect the rights of Americans with disabilities who are living, working, or studying abroad. We have made great progress for people with disabilities, but there is much more to be done. We hope that the next session of the Senate will act swiftly to continue advancing the rights and dignity of people with disabilities in the United States and throughout the world.”

Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living, said: “Disability rights have always been bipartisan.  It is shameful that a small number of ultra-conservatives could derail what should have been a slam-dunk.”

Mark Perriello, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said: “America's leadership on human rights matters.  We will work to ensure that one of the greatest legacies of American democracy—the Americans with Disabilities Act—remains as a beacon of hope for one billion who look to us for that leadership.”

Mike Oxford, a member of ADAPT, a national grassroots disability rights organization, said:  “We are profoundly disappointed but we will not give up.  We are still hopeful that the right outcome will prevail in the future.  For the one billion people with disabilities in the world, we cannot give up.”

Patricia Morrissey, newly elected President of USICD, said: “Our advocacy for ratification of CRPD is not over.  Our coalition of veterans, parents, private companies, faith communities, and both Republicans and Democrats will not abandon pursuit of ratification. The world expects and needs us to be full partners in realizing a world where disability rights—accessibility, opportunity, freedom, and choice—are practiced, observed, and replicated everywhere. The CRPD is the road map for a more inclusive planet."

Activists with Disabilities Demand Ratification of Disability Treaty!

Two women make the ASL sign for Click on the image to feel the energy of these advocates demanding that the U.S. Senate ratify the "Disability Treaty" (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD)!  Yes, this six-minute video has captions (you may need to toggle them on when the video starts).  Take action to support the CRPD at!  Yes, every phone call to Senators really is counted even if you have called on the same issue many times before.

USICD's 2014 Annual Meeting

USICD's 2014 Annual Meeting was held on Friday, October 17, 2014 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 Noon Eastern Time in Washington, DC.  It was another of our annual opportunities to network with fellow members and guests, hear about the organization's work over the past year, and learn what the attendees were working on.  Made available at the meeting was USICD's Annual Report 2014 which can be downloaded in a PDF.


Chamber of Commerce, Veteran, Disability, and Civil Rights Leaders Call for Ratification of CRPD

As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Completes Crucial Last Step Before Floor Vote on the Treaty, Diverse Coalition Calls for Ratification

Washington, DC – This morning, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took the crucial final step toward ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or Disability Treaty, an international treaty designed to promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities worldwide. The Chamber of Commerce, along with representatives from the broad and diverse coalition of business, veterans’, disability, and civil rights organizations supporting the treaty reacted to this morning’s markup and committee vote.

Marca Bristo, President, U.S. International Council on Disabilities: “We are here today to send a clear message: it is time to ratify the Disability Treaty. Failure by our Senators to ratify this treaty would be a betrayal of the American disability community, who, as recent polling tells us, vote in higher numbers than almost any other group. It is a betrayal that will not be forgotten by these millions of voters, and by our allies in the veterans, business, faith, and civil rights communities who are united in support of the treaty.”

Randy Johnson, Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “There are plenty of reasons to support the Disability Treaty —the most obvious and important one being that it’s the right thing to do for people across the globe who are living and working with disabilities. But there are economic and competitiveness benefits for the United States as well. It would create a level playing field for American businesses, leverage the leadership and innovation of American business in setting accessibility standards, and make us more able to do business abroad.  Further, the treaty does not impose new requirements on U.S. employers and entities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  We urge our leaders to seize the opportunity to boost the U.S. economy and help people with disabilities worldwide by ratifying this treaty.”

Tom Tarantino, Chief Policy Officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “This treaty embodies the values supported by the United States Military – the importance of promoting human rights and dignity around the world, and the power of the United States to be a leader in the fight for these ideals. The United States has an obligation not to be a bystander in the fight for rights and dignity for people with disabilities, but to embrace our role as a global leader and extend the rights we’ve fought for here to the rest of world.”

Frances West, Chief Accessibility Officer at IBM and Worldwide Director of the IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center: “IBM is confident that US ratification of the CRPD will generate new opportunities for businesses across many different industries. It will also create a global marketplace “pull” for accessible information and communications technologies, and we believe, reinforce the United States’ legacy leadership position as a champion for full societal inclusion of people with disabilities. We believe failure to act, will produce quite the opposite effect over the long term: stifling the ambition and dreams of people with disabilities, choking marketplace opportunities, and jeopardizing the United States’ ability to influence the global accessibility community.”  

Wade Henderson, President/CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “The United States benefits from a rich history of disability rights legislation that has inspired nations around the world to honor the dignity of people with disabilities, but it is shameful that we still lag behind the global community in ratifying the CRPD. U.S. ratification of the treaty will allow us to once again be a global leader in disability rights, and to amplify the message both here and abroad that disability rights are, indeed, human rights.”

Senate Leadership Call for Senate Action on CRPD Following Supreme Court Ruling in Bond Case

Following the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Bond v. United States on Monday, U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) released the below statement. The Bond v. United States case dealt with a federal statute challenge of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was enacted after the Convention itself was ratified.

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Bond is a positive development that should clear the way for Senate action on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – CRPD. The Court has made it clear that the Bond case should not in any way impede the ratification of the CRPD, and that the Senate can provide advice and consent to this important treaty while preserving American sovereignty and maintaining our Constitution’s balance of powers between the Federal government and the States. The CRPD will ensure that our wounded warriors and disabled citizens are entitled to the same rights and protections around the world that they enjoy here at home. We hope our Senate colleagues will join us to ratify the CPRD as soon as possible.”

In addition, you can view Senator Harkin's statement here, as well as Senator Menendez's statement here

CRPD National Call to ACTION!

The treaty needs your help - call the Senate back to the table NOW! 

In December, Senator Corker walked out of the CRPD negotiations, much to the shock of Senators Menendez, Barrasso and McCain.

Don't let your Senator hide behind the EXCUSES of Senator Corker's false constitutional arguments!

Contact your Senators!

Click here to get a direct link to your Senator's office: 

Tell them that you want the treaty to move forward and ask them to tell SFRC to take up the treaty negotiations once again!

Tell them we will not give up and they should not listen to the FALSE statements given by Corker. 

We need to let the SFRC know NOW that the treaty is important to all of the world community!  They MUST hear from us! 

Petition with over 67,000 Signatures delivered to Senate

CRPD StickerSecond Hearing on the Disability Treaty Draws Big Crowd 

On Thursday, November 21, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the second of two hearings on the Disability Treaty, and our community turned out in great numbers again!  Advocates representing the broad and diverse coalition in favor of the treaty were present at the hearing to show their support.

Thank you!  Your Energy Has Brought the Treaty This Far! 

A large crowd framed in a marble doorway stretched into the distance down a white hallwayA highlight of the event was the delivery to the committee of a petition with over 67,000 signatures from across the country calling for ratification. This number continues to grow, add your name at

Marca Bristo, President of the US International Council on Disabilities, was energized by the turnout at the second hearing and encouraged by the substantive discussion of the treaty. Ms. Bristo remarked, "I'm thrilled and gratified that we have had such a robust turnout for this hearing. Those present today represented the strength, diversity, and commitment of our community. Our coalition reflects America and the millions of Americans with disabilities, professionals, veterans, and religious and civil rights organizations who both need and want the Disability Treaty to be ratified.  I would like to thank Secretary Kerry and Chairman Menendez for their continued leadership and support on this crucial treaty."  

All of those present voiced the hope felt by many in the disability, civil rights, veteran, business, and faith communities that the U.S. Senate would take this rare second chance to do the right thing and vote to ratify the treaty. Witnesses speaking on behalf of the treaty included Secretary of State John Kerry, Frances W. West, Worldwide Director of IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Center, and C. Boyden Gray, attorney and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

Secretary of State John Kerry said, "I still believe what I believed the first time - that ratification of the Disabilities Treaty will advance core American values, expand opportunities for our citizens and businesses, and strengthen American leadership. And I am still convinced that we give up nothing by joining but get everything in return. Our ratification doesn't require a single change to American law, and it won't add a penny to our budget. But it will provide the hook we need to push other countries to raise their laws and standards for the protection of people with disabilities to the standard we set at home under President George H.W. Bush and Republican Leader Dole when we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Frances W. West, Worldwide Director of IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Center, said "As with many other societal issues, the U.S. has served as a model for the rest of the world. Ratifying the CRPD is the next logical step in our journey towards full societal inclusion of Americans with disabilities. It will also preserve our leadership role in promoting the rights and employment of persons with disabilities worldwide, and create new global market opportunities for U.S. businesses."

C. Boyden Gray, attorney and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union said, "The concepts and principles that were developed during the Reagan Administration and then codified in the ADA during the Bush 41 Administration are now at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The U.S. delegation that worked at the UN during the Administration of President George W. Bush made sure that the new Disabilities Treaty followed the time-tested approaches of American disability law. The Disabilities Treaty is the next logical step after the ADA."

USICD will be back in touch with updates as soon as we have them.  In the meantime, please keep sending friends and family to

and using Twitter to keep the momentum! 


David Morrissey Speaking at the Dole Institute of Politics

Two men in suits sit on high backed stools flanked by the American and Kansas flags with a blue background that says Dole Institute of PoliticsOn October 22, 2013, USICD Executive Director David Morrissey spoke on the evolution of the disability rights movement and the push for ratification of the CRPD by the U.S. Senate that Senator Dole has worked so tirelessly to support.  PLAY VIDEO

NCD & USICD Educational Forum on the CRPD

On September 17, USICD and NCD brought together targetted community leaders from around the country and Washington D.C to learn about the U.S. ratification process as it pertains to the CRPD and share strategies for working within their communities.  The Honorable Tony Coelho and NCD Chair jeff Rosen kicked off the meeting with rousing words of introduction followed by an overview of the treaty led by USICD's David Morrissey and Esme Grant.  Next, Judy Heumann of the State Department, DOJ's Eve Hill and John Wodatch gave an update of current ratification status.  After a short break, Heather Ansley from VetsFirst, Tom Zampieri from Blind Veterans of America, Eric Rosenthal of Disability Rights International, Susan Mazrui from AT&T Services, Inc, Ellen Buchman from the Leadership Conference, and David Feinman of the Jewish Federations of North America shared why ratification was inportant from their varying perspectives and what their organizations were doing to support the effort.  After a brief discussion among participants of srtategy, a video message from Secretary of State John Kerry was played once again rallying all to action.  Thank you to all who were aboe to attend.  If you are looking for ways to get involved in the ratification process, may we suggest:

  • Add your voice by joining the Handicap International petition!
  • Visit our new website dedicated to the CRPD:  You can find one pagers, myth/facts, and access a new community webinar. 
  • Two Facebook pages to “Like” to get ongoing information on the disability treaty: USICD and RatifyCRPD.
  • If your organization has not yet joined the list of almost 700 organizations supporting the CRPD, you can add your organization here.   
  • TWEET! You can follow USICD at @USICD, as well as follow NCD at @NatCounDis. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following #iSupportCRPD and tweeting to Senator Corker at @SenBobCorker and Senator Menendez at @SenatorMenendez

International Week of the Deaf and CRPD

A group of people stand and squat holding signs Supporting CRPD RatificationSeptember 23-27

Deaf people around the world will soon celebrate the International Week of the Deaf from September 23 to 27 this month. To see an ASL video and learn more about how you can get involved, CLICK HERE

USICD Applauds American Legion Vote to Support Disability Treaty

This morning, the American Legion voted to officially voice their support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international treaty designed to embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities by creating legislation and policies around the world modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In supporting the treaty, the American Legion joined over 20 of the top veterans’ service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Wounded Warrior Project, as well as a bipartisan group of prominent veterans, such as Senator John McCain, former Senator, Secretary John Kerry, former Senator Bob Dole, and Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, all of whom have voiced support for U.S. ratification of the treaty.

Marca Bristo, President of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, said, “We are thrilled to see that the American Legion has joined us in supporting this crucial treaty. The CRPD promotes the empowerment of the 5.5 million American veterans living with disabilities. It would remove barriers and allow American servicemembers and veterans with disabilities to work, serve, study, and live abroad, and provide them the opportunity to achieve independent living and inclusion into all aspects of society. We applaud the American Legion for formally recognizing the value of this treaty in supporting our veterans both at home and abroad, and in helping to export U.S. leadership in promoting human rights and dignity around the world.”

Join USICD Before the End of 2014

The year ahead promises to be an important time in international disability rights. There are 151 ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilites and the USICD community is committed to seeing the U.S. become the 152nd!

A large groups of people, many in wheelchairs, applaud USICD entered 2014 with a vision for serving our community and the global disability rights movement.  We have a renewed vigor to continue our ratification effort and are preparing for the third year of the Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  We look forward to a big year in 2015, and hope that you will be a part of it!

Visit our membership page to read more about membership in USICD and to download a member information form.   If you or your organization are already a member, now is the time to renewIf you've never been a member before, now is the time to join!

From the Archive: United States signs the CRPD

President Obama signs the order for the US to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

July 24, 2009, President Barack Obama signs the order for the United States to become a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the East Room of the White House.  Read USICD's media release about this event herePhoto Courtesy Rehabilitation International.