July 22, 2014 was a big day for people living with disabilities. Although the news was not widely reported, on July 22, 2014, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. According to Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA), the law will, “improve our nation’s workforce development system and help put Americans back to work.” In addition to improving the general condition of the workforce development system, the law also ensures, “individuals with disabilities have the skills necessary to be successful in businesses that provide competitive, integrated employment.” Easter Seals, a nonprofit that provides services and support to adults and children living with disabilities, supported the passage of the bill and states that the law “updates the U.S. job training and employment system, including the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program and other employment services for people with disabilities.”
Also, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Essentially, the U.N. convention would extend the same requirements as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to foreign countries who agree to sign the convention. In the words of Don MacKay, Chairman of the committee that negotiated the treaty, “What the Convention endeavours to do is to elaborate in detail the rights of persons with disabilities and set out a code of implementation.” So far there are 158 signatories to the convention. The U.S. signed the CRPD in 2009. However, in 2012, the treaty fell five votes short of the super majority needed to ratify the convention. Easter Seals is once again taking a lead-role in advocating for the ratification of the treaty. After being passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the treaty will once again face a vote in the full senate and it requires a two-thirds super majority vote to pass. If the treaty goes into effect it will ensure that the 57.8 million American with disabilities as well as 5.5 million disabled American veterans and the nearly 1 billion people living with disabilities around the world will have access to the same basic rights and resources as Americans as enjoyed for the last 24 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
To support the passage of the bill, contact your senator and tell them how important it is to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. You can use this template to contact your Senator.