Dueling Disability policies: how is the CRPD better than the ADA?

Photo by Ruthe-Ellen Auman

As human beings, we strive for a perfect society where everybody is entitled to equal rights and a valued place in society. That includes disabled citizens who should have their voices be heard. This inspirational goal was achieved with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A new era of awareness for those who are considered physically, mentally, or sensory impaired began after President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law in 1990.

The ADA basically prohibits discrimination against an individual with a disability, promotes accessibility to various (public) venues, and encourages efficient means of communication. This act is why prospective employers cannot turn away people due to their disabilities. We, as people with a disability, have our rights to be granted equal access and not be rejected because of something that impairs a part of ourselves.

How can another law or policy beat the ADA in terms of fairness and awareness?

There’s something that may be superior to the ADA. The United Nations came up with their own disability policy: the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).

The UN brought up the CRPD to the General Assembly for signatures in December 2006. Now, CRPD is a fully operational policy as of May 2008. The CRPD is like the ADA on steroids; the policy doesn’t just cover provisions for employing, accessibility to public place/information, and communication… Human rights is deeply integrated with the CRPD, so it covers disabled people’s rights to an adequate standard of living, rehabilitation, and to preserve their dignity. With the CRPD’s provisions, the mission to form a perfect society is clearly defined.

About participation rights, the CRPD says disabled people should have “the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic, and intellectual potential.” The purpose is to encourage disabled people to contribute to society, because their potential shouldn’t be downgraded thanks to any disability they might have. Society can learn from them and give enriching experiences to people with disabilities.

The CRPD also encourages cultivating a sense of identity, particularly with the deaf community. That’s part of their provision on the right to education. People with disabilities are “guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, regardless of age.” If somebody has a disability and is seeking out education, he or she can be rest assured that discrimination won’t be tolerated under the CRPD.

In comparison, the ADA is surprisingly restrictive. It only covers our rights to get a job, access public places, and accessible communication. It doesn’t discuss how we are all human beings with dignity. It doesn’t discuss our right to an adequate standard of living. It doesn’t encourage cultivating a sense of identity with our communities.

This is not about people with disabilities. It’s about people who are human beings. Why didn’t we adopt the CRPD’s provisions on human rights for our great nation’s own disability policy? Can we form a perfect society? Stand up and let your voice be heard.

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