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HUFFINGTON POST BLOG By CAROL GLAZER, President, National Organization on Disability
While it never received the attention that came with the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly a quarter century ago, the changes to the rules implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act announced by the U.S. Labor Department last summer, which take effect this Monday, have the potential for far greater impact and scale than even the ADA in terms of employment. Even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it took Affirmative Action in the decade of the 1970’s to effect measurable change in employment for racial minorities and women.
Similarly, while the ADA accomplished a great deal, it has not gotten the job done on unemployment. The 503 rule change, which includes a seven-percent disability employment goal for those companies who do business with the federal government, has the potential to significantly narrow the persistent employment gap for people with disabilities.
If the nation’s nearly 200,000 federal contractors embrace the historic opportunity before us, not only will more than 600,000 more people with disabilities soon have a job, employers also will reap the benefits of a more diverse, resilient, and creative workforce.
NOD Contributes to Discussion on Long-Term Discussion Unemployment
NOD was among a small group of disability organizations invited to the White House to confer with senior officials on both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Obama Administration’s new focus on improving job outcomes for the long-term unemployed. In the latter initiative, over 300 CEOs have signed onto a pledge to take proactive efforts to hire this group, which includes many people with disabilities.
NOD President Carol Glazer discussed NOD’s ongoing partnerships in the business community with Gene B. Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council, and other disability advocates. She was able to point to many companies engaged in NOD’s CEO Council and Bridges program that are working hard to become employers of choice for people with disabilities, and leaders among their corporate peers.
Local veterans share stories about how chemical has impacted their lives, lives of children
Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange have battled cancer, liver damage and other serious health problems. But their exposure to Agent Orange also has caused birth defects and health problems in their children and grandchildren, according to the Vietnam Veterans of America. The national organization is working to educate Kansans about Agent Orange, a defoliant deployed during the Vietnam War.
The United States sprayed about 20 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated herbicides over nearly 6 million acres of Vietnamese terrain, according to a paper written by the National Organization on Disability, “U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later.”
The paper states that among the dioxin-contaminated herbicides was a compound called Agent Orange, named for the orange stripe on its label. The chemicals were used to wipe “out forests and crops that were used by opposition forces for cover and food.”
By the end of Vietnam in May 1975, more than 2.5 million American military personnel had served in Vietnam’s combat zones, the paper stated.
Andrew Solomon Speaks at Diversity Event Hosted by CEO Council Member Booz Allen Hamilton
NOD was pleased to attend Booz Allen Hamilton’s February 27th event featuring, Andrew Solomon, New York Times bestselling author of Far From the Tree – Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, who spoke about the challenges and joys of parenting children with differences.
Solomon highlighted examples of the generosity, acceptance and tolerance of families facing extraordinary challenges, and how those challenges impact us as we rise up to meet them, maintaining that differences are what unite us and shape our character. CEO Ralph Shrader and other Booz Allen senior leaders also shared their thoughts on the firm’s commitment to diversity.
“This event was one more example of Booz Allen Hamilton’s commitment to including people with disabilities as a part of the firm’s commitment to diversity,“ said Erika Byrnes, NOD’s development director, who attended the event. “As the parent of a child with disabilities Mr. Shrader clearly takes that commitment personally. NOD is proud to count Booz Allen Hamilton among our CEO Council of corporate champions.”
In continuing its commitment to and advocacy for inclusion of people with disabilities into society, the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) announced today that it will award the inaugural Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion to Dr. Michael Stein, Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. The award recognizes an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and the greater public. The $100,000 award is based on past achievements and the potential for future contributions to the field.
An internationally recognized expert on disability rights, Stein participated in the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and actively consults with international governments on their disability laws and policies. Stein has also acted as legal counsel to Rehabilitation International, Disabled Peoples’ International and to Special Olympics International. He works with organizations fighting for disability rights around the world and advises a number of United Nations bodies, such as UNDESA, UNICEF, and UNOHCHR, as well as individual national human rights institutions. The National Organization on Disability is proud to have Dr. Stein as a member of its board of directors.
NOD Chairman and former Governor Tom Ridge and former Representative Tony Coelho penned an open letter to Senator Bob Corker, upon learning of his refusal to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Ridge and Coelho argue that the “United States can help empower people with disabilities across the globe to claim responsibility for their own lives and to be productive and valued members of society free from discrimination and indignity.”
“The Disabilities Treaty is modeled on our very own Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the world’s most comprehensive and progressive legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities. By ratifying the treaty, we have the opportunity to stand up once more as a leader and pioneer in protecting the rights, freedoms, and dignity of the more than one billion people worldwide living with disabilities.
“We have an opportunity to build America’s brand around the globe of standing for good values, without the cost of wars or foreign aid. Even more importantly, U.S. ratification encourages other nations to end discrimination against disabled U.S. citizens and veterans that wish to live, work, study, or travel abroad.”
Giorgi Akhmeteli, a McCain Fellow visting from the country of Georgia and stationed within NOD’s New York offices, tours the city with Voice of America’s cameras rolling. Watch Akhmeteli as he discusses disability outside of the United States and the importance of theUnited Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
NOD is proud to host Giorgi during his year-long tenure as a McCain Fellow.
Disability Matters radio host Joyce Bender welcomes Gov. Tom Ridge today to talk about the recent efforts to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty (CRPD). The CRPD seeks to hold other countries accountable to the same standards of accessibility set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it was passed on July 26, 1990. In addition to serving as NOD’s Chairman, Ridge is the former governor of Pennsylvania and the former U.S. Attorney General.
Ridge will be joined in the conversation by David Morrissey, executive director of the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), Tony Coelho, former congressman and author of the ADA, Jill Houghton, executive director of the United States Business Leadership Network (USBLN), and Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and former U.S. Attorney General.
Richard Thornburgh and Tom Ridge, both former governors of Pennsylvania, issued an opinion advocating US lawmakers to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which would protect the rights and freedoms of individuals with disabilities across the world:
“As longtime advocates for persons with disabilities and individuals directly impacted by disability, we recognize that the ratification of the CRPD would be a victory not only for those whose rights are protected, but also for the ideals of freedom and equality for all that are the bedrock on which this nation was built. [...]
We are acutely aware that the international community looks to the United States as an exemplar, providing a way forward for protecting individual rights. The CRPD builds on the framework of the ADA and exports the protections given to citizens in the United States to the rest of the world. By ratifying this treaty, the Senate will signal that America remains a leader and pioneer in protecting the freedoms of people with disabilities.
Not only does ratification allow the United States to frame the standards for disability rights globally, but it protects American citizens and veterans with disabilities from discrimination and onerous restrictions abroad. Though protected from discrimination at home, our veterans with disabilities who want to travel and work abroad may be subject to unjust travel restrictions and face limitations in employment.”
NOD is proud to have Giorgi Akheteli, a fellow from The McCain Institute for International Leadership, serve as our liason during the U.S. Senate hearings on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Based on the campus of Arizona State University, the institute invites a number of emerging leaders from around the world to complete a year-long fellowship within the United States. Mr. Akheteli is working from the NOD offices in Manhattan while he pursues research and advocacy projects on disability policies.
In this blog commentary, Giorgi Akheteli recounts his experience at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee, where lawmakers considered a U.S. ratification of this international treaty that would promote equality of access to people with disabilities across the world. Mr. Akheteli considers the pathway the U.S. has set for emerging democracies—especially within the fight for disability rights—and encourages America’s lawmakers to continue that tradition.