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The 27th Birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act

August 3, 2017

By USICD President, Dr. Patricia Morrissey

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

Patricia Morrissey

Twenty-seven years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to draft amendments, along with my colleague, Randy Johnson, now with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that were retained in the law. The ADA not only transformed communities but recalibrated how we view each other, and built brighter futures for many people. Then from 2002 to 2006, the ADA was the guidebook for drafting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a U.N. disabilities rights treaty. The CRPD has been ratified by over 170 nations, but the U.S. is not one of them.

Historically, the U.S. has ratified few UN treaties. When a treaty focuses on human behavior should be, that makes many members of Congress nervous because these members fear that endorsing an international treaty is “potentially” an intrusion on our sovereignty as an independent nation.

But—whether we ratify the CRPD or not at some point—as a nation we stand for and must practice the principles that both the ADA and the CRPD reflect so clearly. These being, the opportunity and right of each individual with a disability to fully participate in and contribute to the communities, nations, and world of which they are a part.

This means we must seek out and offer to help people in other countries who are attempting to make these principles a reality in their homelands. It is not enough for us to affirm, practice, and protect these principles in the U.S. We must lend a hand and learn from others in faraway lands.

As you celebrate the anniversary of the ADA today, consider others less fortunate in the U.S. and elsewhere who would benefit from what you have experienced and know. The U.S. international Council on Disabilities plans to launching an online Global Connector in 2018 and hope you will consider joining it.

Thank you.

Patricia Morrissey

This text originally appeared on the front page of USICD’s website at, it has been moved here for archival purposes.

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