Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

New legislation or new policies that support people with disabilities come around too infrequently.  When they do happen, you will see calls to action that basically say “If you care about people with disabilities support this. Email your elected officials, and send us a donation to help us get this passed.”

The problem is that most people never read the legislation or policy they are asked to support. Not every piece of pro-disability legislation is a good piece of legislation. The latest rallying point is the CRPD, a UN Treaty that President Obama has signed and the Senate is considering for ratification. I will not be writing my congressman, posting on Twitter, or sending anyone a donation to support this.

Two serious problems.

The first issue has to do with the definition “disability.” There isn’t one in the CRPD. We already struggle with limited resources for those who are in the most need of them, and this type of dilution of the idea of disability will not help the situation. Some think it is a good idea to greatly broaden the concept of disability. This may sound good philosophically, but the practical applications will result in reduced services and support for those who could most benefit from them.

The second issue is the idea of the enforcement of disability protections and policies moving to an international body. Today we have the right to hold our elected officials accountable for how they support people with disabilities and their families. Imagine a congressman being able to say that this issue is not something he can influence, you need to call the enforcement office in Switzerland. CRPD heads us in that direction.

Why so much support in the disability community?

Why are so many organizations in support of the CRPD? There are many good aspects of the CRPD, especially related to human dignity and the rights of people with disabilities. It is a large, sweeping worldwide document that attracts support and helps fundraising. Once a few major disability organizations jump on the bandwagon, other groups don’t want to be left out.

It is easy to understand the attraction of the CRPD. I think that too often people with disabilities feel forgotten or pushed to the margins of society. A sweeping international treaty seems like a good way to bring disabilities to the forefront.

In the end good people can disagree about the merits of the CRPD and whether it should be ratified. Some may read and fully understand it and its shortcomings, and decide to advocate for it anyway. The important thing is to carefully consider the merits and drawbacks before making an informed decision.

Disability Must be Part of Diversity Initiatives

If you work for a college, government agency, or large corporation, it is likely there is some type of diversity initiative or program. In my own experience, I have seen very little mention of disabilities as a diversity issue. This is a serious oversight.

It is important for those of us who are informed about disability issues either personally or professionally to take steps to correct this. Sometimes we wait for some distant advocacy group to do this, or some professional who manages diversity efforts. Neither of these will be effective in changing things where you work.

So, we all need to take two steps. First of all, you should write an email to your supervisor and politely express how important it is to you to have disabilities represented in diversity initiatives. Secondly, find out who leads the diversity efforts where you work and ask them to include disabilities as part of the diversity program.

In my opinion, this is the best way to raise awareness of disabilities, and ensure it continues to be part of the conversation. Diversity outreach, training and hiring efforts receive a lot of attention and support, all of which could benefit people with disabilities and their families.

Repost from May 20, 2010

Unemployment for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

The news that comes to us month after month of hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs is staggering. The numbers are so large it is almost impossible to comprehend the impact. We quickly think about money problems, repossessed cars and foreclosed homes as a potential impact for families who are impacted. Indeed, it is a scary time for multitudes of families.

Beyond the obvious financial impact, there is also an emotional cost to being “let go.” In some ways it is easier if an entire store or plant closes down and everyone working there is affected. However, it seems more personal when a company or organization chooses to keep some people and let others go. This can strike at the core of our self-worth and how much value we feel we bring to an organization.

My observations have been that losing one’s job is in some ways more difficult for older adults and those with disabilities. Older adults may already feel the pressure of staying relevant and needed. People with disabilities may feel like their coworkers constantly underestimate them because of their differences. Being “let go” can throw an emotional hand grenade in the midst of these already present struggles.

Perhaps it is best for everyone to find a personal counselor in addition to the career counselor. Some people can serve as both. If you are struggling with self-worth and self-esteem issues it will have an impact on your performance in seeking new employment. Job searching is really a complex management project that requires you to be at your best.