The United States International Council on Disability (USICD) had its annual meeting in April. The USICD is a federation of U.S. non-governmental organizations, federal agencies and individuals that addresses international disability rights issues. It is based in Washington, D.C.
Speakers discussed the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that President Obama signed in 2009, as well as the inclusion of disability issues in the U.S. international development agenda. Congress has not yet ratified the CRPD.
Sheri Singer, a spokesperson for USICD, said one significant development at the event was when Judith Heumann, Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department, announced that the CRPD is expected to move from the White House to the Senate soon. Though no date was provided, Singer said that this news generated excitement at the meeting.
The CRPD is a human rights treaty establishing international legal standards for governments and international governmental organizations to promote equal rights for people with disabilities. It addresses issues such as health, gender equality, education, international cooperation and standard of living.
The CRPD was adopted at the United Nations headquarters in December 2006 and became effective in May 2008. One hundred and forty-eight nations have signed the treaty and 99 countries have ratified it.
Heumann, who is an internationally recognized leader on disability issues, spoke on a panel with Charlotte McClain Nhlapo, Disability Advisor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, in discussing the U.S. international development agenda.
International guests included Sherzodbek Sharipov, a USICD-Atlas Corps Fellow from Uzbekistan who has also worked at the Mental Disabilities Action Center in Hungary, and Med Ssengoba, a Ford Foundation Fellow at the American University in Uganda who also worked at Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities in Kampala, Uganda.
USICD-Atlas addresses issues including poverty, health, gender equity and the environment. The Ford Foundation offers fellowships to enhance ethnic and racial diversity at universities and to expand the use of diversity in education.
The meeting took place at the U.S. Access Board in Washington, D.C. The agenda also included the election of new board members and a vote on policy issues.
This article was published in the June 2011 issue of Able News.