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A New Year’s Message to USICD Members for 2016

January 7, 2016
Woman with short, blond hair wearing a white blouse, pearl necklace, and black suit jacket smiles at camera

Patricia Morrissey

Happy New Year! I’m really excited about 2016. On the political side, I know none of us will be bored – President Obama will be focusing on his legacy. Paul Ryan, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, will be showing how bipartisanship will fare under his leadership. And then of course, we have the Presidential race.

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) has a lot to do and is looking forward to your being part of that vision. I want to focus on securing our operational future, expanding our partnership base, and attracting new members to our organization. We have a very dynamic board and high-energy staff. Here’s hoping that you will follow what we do, help us when you can, and ask your friends to join USICD as members.  Let me give you a few updates that I hope you will share with others about USICD’s work.

USICD’s mission is to promote the rights and full participation of persons with disabilities through global engagement and United States foreign affairs. We are doing this in Myanmar, where we are assisting in the development of the Myanmar Council of Persons with Disabilities.  We are doing this in the Caribbean, where we are getting to know our neighboring DPOs better and seeking ways for more meaningful collaboration.  We are doing this in Africa and Asia, where 60 DPOs are hosting the Global Disability Rights Library.  And we are doing this in Kenya, Mexico and Vietnam, and Armenia as part of the RightsNow! Consortium with USICD members Mobility International USA and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

USICD’s internship program funded by Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation will continue in 2016. We successfully have placed 21 interns with 16 international organizations and federal agencies such as the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, World Learning, Handicap International, and the Inter-American Development Bank and others over the last three years.  We are currently accepting applications for our fourth summer in DC: the deadline to apply is January 12, 2016, and interns will be expected to be in DC from about May 29 to July 30, 2016.

I am particularly excited about USICD’s new partnership with the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) to conduct a roundtable on including people with disabilities in international business in the workforce and in the marketplace.  Great U.S. companies are embracing the global expansion of disability rights, and they have experience to share and much to gain.  USICD is honored to help USBLN serve them and the global vision for access, inclusion and equality!

Now a few comments on my priorities.  How people with disabilities are treated in a country is a solid measure for judging a country’s approach to human rights generally. If a person with the disability has the same opportunities to attend school with peers, to participate in community life with others, to have a job, to live where and with whom he or she chooses, and to have access to health care, chances are the human rights record of a country is on solid footing. If we visit a country and we see people with disabilities everywhere doing things with others, we can conclude that things on the disability rights side are in order. On the flipside, if we don’t see people with disabilities everywhere doing things with others, we know there’s work to be done. Everyone in the U.S. has the opportunity to play a direct or indirect role in places where work needs to be done.

Spend some time thinking about what you would like to do and share it with us. The October 2015 meeting of the membership by teleconference was such a hit with you, our members, that USICD has decided to do this twice a year, creating a real-time opportunity for knowledge sharing, advising, discussing and collaborating.  Please mark on your calendar to join our next full membership teleconference on April 27, 2016 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Additionally, the USICD Board of Directors’ Resource Development Committee welcomes the committed participation of USICD members not on the board. Interested members should contact David Morrissey at

Partnerships are the smart way to get things going, to get things done. Are you with another organization? Does this organization have an interest in international activities? Connect this organization with us and let us explore options for partnerships.

Finally, in addition to helping USICD pursue initiatives and build partnerships, you can help us with our recruitment of new members. Tell your friends about us; tell them about our transformative approach to membership. We can do so much more if we are willing to work together. My priorities depend on YOU. If you want to not only be a member of USICD, but also a force in shaping its reach to people with disabilities around the world, please contact us at

Thank you.

Patricia Morrissey

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