Saturday, May 03, 2008

UN Disability Rights Convention Goes Into Effect TODAY

FYI for readers:Several members of FRIDA's Chicago base work at Access Living, which issued the following press release. Marca Bristo has been a strong supporter of FRIDA's efforts (as has Gary Arnold, Access Living's PR contact---aren't we a hornet's nest).

May 2, 2008

Contact: Gary Arnold, Access Living
312-640-2199 voice
312-640-2102 TTY

UN Disability Rights Convention Enters Into Force
Launches first binding human rights treaty of the 21st Century

Chicago -- Access Living and disability rights groups around the world welcome into force the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol. The treaty goes into affect Saturday, May 3, 30 days after it was ratified by the required number of signatories. The Convention reached the required number of signatures in early April when Ecuador became the 20th country to ratify the treaty. As of May 2, 25 countries have ratified the Convention and 15 have ratified the optional protocol, which allows individuals or groups to seek redress once national remidies are exhausted.

Speaking soon after Ecuador ratified the convention, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “Persons with disabilities all across the world have faced discriminatory treatment and egregious human rights violations on a daily basis. Now, finally, we have a solid international legal framework in place that should allow them to cast off restrictions that have been placed on them by the rest of society.”

The convention was originally adopted by the United Nations in December of 2006, and opened for signatures in March of 2007. Drafted by an Ad Hoc United Nations committee charged with developing a treaty to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, the CRPD is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century. It prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of life, and includes specific provisions related to rehabilitation, habilitation, education, employment, health and access to information, public facilities and services. It is estimated that at least 10% of the world’s population has a disability.
Marca Bristo, Access Living’s President and CEO and VP for North America of Rehabilitation International, participated in the negotiations around the convention, which included unprecedented participation of numerous persons with disabilities and their representative organizations. “It’s a historic event that individuals and organizations from around the world have partnered to create a Convention that will affect the 650 million people with disabilities around the world.”

In late 2007, the Chicago City Council adopted a resolution introduced by Mayor Daley calling on the United States to sign the convention.

Bristo also was recently elected President of the United States International Council on Disability (USICD). Committed to international disability rights, USICD is a federation comprised of the leading U.S. disability organizations with international agendas and national memberships, government agencies with a deep interest in international disability affairs, and individuals committed to international disability rights. In her role with USICD, Bristo will participate in efforts to impact the United States’ ratification and implementation of the Convention.

“It is critical for the United States to support and ratify the Convention on the rights of people with disabilities,” said Bristo. “The Convention would support existing disability rights laws in this country and would impact our foreign policy to be more inclusive to the rights of people with disabilities. With this in mind, Access Living strongly urges the United States to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol as a matter of priority, thereby demonstrating strong commitment to the principles of non-discrimination, inclusion and equal opportunities for all people in society.”

Later this month, Bristo will attend a commemorative event celebrating the entry into force of the Convention and its Optional Protocol. The event is scheduled for May 12 in the General Assembly Hall at United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

On June 12, Access Living will honor Ambassador Luis Gallegos of Ecuador with the annual “Lead On” Award for his role in the convention’s development and passage. Gallegos chaired the UN Ad Hoc Committee that initiated the convention and will accept the award at Access Living’s 2008 Gala chaired by William Daley of JPMorgan Chase.

For more information on the convention, including a list of countries that have signed or ratified the convention, visit

Access Living is a cross-disability organization, nationally recognized as a leader in the field of independent living and a premier local provider of services for people with disabilities. For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199 (voice) or 312-640-2102 (TTY).