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My Perspective on Why It Is Important for the U.S. to Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), by Della Leonor

December 18, 2017

By Della Leonor

Della LeonorSix years ago at the age of 40, I was fortunate to be granted a full fellowship by the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) at American University supported by The Nippon Foundation to pursue the world’s first online master’s degree in disability and public policy. I graduated and received my Master of Arts in International Affairs with a concentration in Comparative and International Disability Policy in December 2012. When I graduated, I asked my faculty mentors how I can pay it forward and make the biggest impact for others. One mentor told me to go back to my city, Roxas City, or municipality, Capiz Province, to help persons with disabilities.

I am a member of the National Anti-Poverty Commission of the Philippines government representing the Persons with Disability Group in my home region. As part of this role, I was tasked with executing the Bottom Up Budgeting Project in my community for years 2014-2016 as a Provincial Focal Person. Furthermore, I am a Steering Committee Member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) of the Philippines.

I traveled abroad for the second time in my life when, during my graduate school career, I was given a practicum project by the Asia Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD) in Bangkok, Thailand, to create a captioning system for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Stakeholders Meeting in December 2011. My task was to create a captioning group that consisted of blind and mobility impaired captioning experts.

From 2012-2016, I was a Program Associate with IDPP and traveled across Southeast Asia to focus on marketing and recruitment efforts for the IDPP Fellowships Program, of which I was an alumna. I was on a mission to find and identify persons with disabilities who have the same zest as I do for advocacy, knowledge, perspective and shaping policy to become the next generation of disability leaders.

My story is not that amazing compared to those who have been fighting for disability rights to be viewed as human rights for decades, including those whose advocacy brought the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to fruition. The story of our global disability community is about the potential of all persons with disabilities – including in the United States – who can contribute to their country. I believe what is essential is the unity that it shows when a country decides to ratify the Convention. Ratification–and subsequent implementation–will allow for more benefits and comprehensive rights for persons with disabilities in the US and enhance the already existing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The CRPD would supplement the power of the ADA to ensure that people with disabilities have stronger access to the same human rights to which all people are entitled.

As the most powerful nation, if the United States ratifies the CRPD, it would send a strong message around the world that it, too, supports comprehensive human rights for people with disabilities at a global level. Ratification may also help inspire remaining countries who have not yet ratified to ratify the CRPD so that more people with disabilities around the world can enjoy its protections. I believe now is the time for the US to take its longstanding history of ensuring rights for persons with disabilities to the next level and ratify the CRPD.

Della Leonor is a member of the National Anti-Poverty Commission of the Philippines government representing the Persons with Disabilities Group, a local disabled people’s organization in the Philippines. USICD invited Della Leonor to share her perspectives, as a citizen of another country, on why it is important for the United States to ratify the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

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