Transcript: Sen. Mark Udall’s floor remarks in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of statements by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Utah) in support of ratifying the U.N. Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Senate floor on Dec. 4, 2012:

Mr. President, I thank Senator Kerry for the recognition. I appreciate it. I have been an earlier supporter of the ratification of this important treaty. I am pleased to have worked with Senators Durbin, McCain, Harkin, Coons, and Barrasso.

In particular, I want to thank the chairman and ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee. I thank all of these fine Senators for their bipartisan work on this bill.

We still have work to do to improve our treatment and acceptance of disabled persons. But through the Americans with Disabilities Act, the United States has been at the forefront of protecting the dignity of people with disabilities. This treaty will help expand American values and leadership throughout the world. It is a vital step forward in respecting the rights of the disabled.

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I am aware of the challenges many countries face. These challenges include supporting their disabled citizens. Our Nation has set the standard for improving access to buildings, technology, and other areas for the disabled. Without the United States accepting its leadership role, it is possible that different standards could be adopted internationally. As for one example, this would place disabled travelers at a disadvantage. They would be forced to deal with different standards while traveling overseas.

In many countries there has been insignificant investment in infrastructure to improve access for the disabled, and in many cases there is a misunderstanding about what rights disabled persons should be afforded. Ratifying this treaty will help the United States clarify to the world that people with disabilities have dignity and that they are capable of living full and meaningful lives.

For instance, article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addresses the issue of women with disabilities. The article provides that:

   State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement, and empowerment of women for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the present Convention.

Many countries are falling short in protecting the rights of women. It is tragic that so many women are subject to human rights abuses in a number of countries. Secretary of State Clinton has made empowering women an important part of our diplomatic priorities, and I support her efforts.

Fortunately for the United States, we do not need to implement additional legislation in order to be in full compliance with the convention. Laws such as the Civil Rights Act, Title IX, the Family and Medical Leave Act strengthen the U.S. position in the convention, and our leadership could lead to other countries adopting similar protections for disabled women.

Most importantly, I am reminded of the veterans who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These brave veterans have served in all the places we have asked them to go. They have advanced the interests and ideals of the United States. We owe them a debt for their service. Many of them have returned with severe wounds, some requiring a lifetime of care.

I wish to read a statement from one of the veterans who appeared in front of the Foreign Relations Committee. John Lancaster is a disabled attorney and marine veteran. This is what he said:

In 1968, I arrived in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines as an Infantry Platoon Commander. Five months later, I was shot and injured in a firefight. After months of rehabilitation, I arrived back home in Western New York a disabled veteran. Although my friends and family welcomed me home, society did not receive me quite as well. While there was certainly tension around the politics of the Vietnam war, it was the inaccessibility of my environment that made me feel the least welcome. I returned to a country not ready to receive me as a man who now used a wheelchair.

That was the reality that an honored soldier had to overcome until the United States improved its laws to protect the disabled, and it is still a reality in many places overseas, places where our veterans and other disabled citizens will likely travel in the future for either business or pleasure. We must ratify this treaty because protecting the rights of the disabled is the right thing to do in the United States of America, and it is the right thing to do throughout the world.

Again, I thank Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar for their hard work on this treaty. We look forward to our colleagues voting for it in a short hour from now.

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2 Comments on “Transcript: Sen. Mark Udall’s floor remarks in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  1. Pingback: Senate Republicans blocked ratification of U.N. treaty to protect people with disabilities | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Sen. Marco Rubio's floor remarks against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities | What The Folly?!

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