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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

NCIL Statement on the Treatment of Haitians at the US Southern Border

In July of 2019, in response to the racist and xenophobic remarks publicly articulated by our then-president, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) released a statement of solidarity. The statement was in support of people attempting to enter the US via the country’s southern border. In that statement, we acknowledged that the racism which fueled the comments extended beyond that individual and into our organization. We made several commitments in that statement to move beyond simply writing platitudes. We seized the opportunity to publicly announce our intention to face the systemic oppression that racially marginalized disabled people experience. Our commitment included people at the US’s southern border and beyond, including within our organization.

Since then, NCIL has embarked on a journey to becoming an intersectional organization. That process has led to the transformation of its body of Executive Officers. Our executive board is now a committee where racially marginalized members are the majority. The Board hired a subject matter expert on racial equity and Black woman as executive director. Our Diversity Chair is a Black woman. Both NCIL’s ED and Diversity Chair are members of the IDD community. Soon, we hope to announce the name of our new governing board president, a Black man. Thanks to our partnership with the Ford Foundation, we are further able to prioritize intersectionality in our programming. Our work to re-fashion NCIL as an anti-racist organization is far from over. We recognize that work is never ending. We are humbled by the road ahead of us. We are enthusiastically working toward an independent living network that is intersectional and, therefore, truly inclusive.

Two years after we expressed solidarity with immigrants at the US’s southern border the US finds itself, once again, in a position where its actions are causing harm to racially marginalized people fleeing their homes in the hopes of safety for themselves and their families. This is despite a change in the administration in the White House.  Two years ago, the migrants were largely Latinx. The human rights violations included keeping people in cages. The violations included separating children from their adult loved ones. Today, those detention facilities remain in operation. Today, asylum rights still are not being honored. Today, the abuses include Black migrants. Today, the human rights violations Black immigrants are experiencing include being whipped by US Border Patrol agents. 

As we noted in our statement two years ago, the treatment of immigrants at the US’s southern border was reprehensible. Although the population targeted by this treatment today has changed, our assertion remains the same. Unlike the previous administration, the current administration at the White House has  pledged to ensure that immigrants to the US would be treated humanely, no matter their country of origin. The current Administration has highlighted racial equity as one of its original priorities. Today, NCIL calls on the White House administration to join us in following through with its own promises to racially marginalized people. The White House should heed the recommendations of the United Nations (UN) and stop expelling Haitian immigrants without first assessing whether they qualify for refugee status.

Action Alert: Support the Office of International Disability Rights Act!

NCIL’s International Subcommittee, USICD, and NCIL are asking our members, the U.S. disability community and our allies, to respond by communicating your support for the bipartisan Office of International Disability Rights Act (H.R. 3373). The bill was introduced on June 20, 2019 by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and has 17 co-sponsors as of today. We have one Republican co-sponsor (Representative Don Young; R-AK) and need more to show strong bipartisan support for the bill.

The Office of International Disability Act establishes a permanent office at the U.S. Department of State. The bill also requires the appointment of a Special Advisor and mandatory disability inclusion training for all civil service, foreign service personnel, and chiefs of mission. Read the Office of International Disability Rights Act.

Please visit the USICD Call to Action web page to learn more and to download the Call to Action Packet (Word document). The packet contains a letter from USICD’s President, Dr. Patricia Morrissey and a sample letter to send to members of the House of Representatives. The last page of the packet contains a list of Representatives we would like you to contact as soon as possible. Please share this important announcement with your friends, family, and colleagues!

NCIL and USICD support establishing a permanent Office of International Disability Rights. We hope you can help! 

Adults with Down Syndrome Strive for Independence in ‘The Grown-Ups,’ Airing September 4

Source: POV Pressroom

The 30th season of POV continues with The Grown-Ups, a glimpse into the lives of adults in Chile living with Down syndrome from director Maite Alberdi. With both humor and heartbreak, the film illuminates legal, financial, and societal restrictions that diminish the freedoms of Chile’s developmentally disabled population.

Alberdi places the viewer in a center for individuals with Down syndrome, where the film’s main characters attend school and staff an in-house catering business.

“The unforgettable characters at the center of this film highlight important questions about the constraints placed on those deemed ‘less than’ by various societal institutions,” said POV executive producer Chris White. “A remarkable and impassioned work, it forces us to consider the pain that can be imposed by varying notions of how much freedom is appropriate for those living with developmental disabilities.”

The Grown-Ups will have its national broadcast premiere on the PBS documentary series POV (Point of View) on Monday, September 4, 2017 at 10:00 p.m. (check local listings). The Grown-Ups will stream online on in concurrence with its broadcast.

Eastern Oregon CIL Issues CRPD Call to Action!

By: W. Kirt Toombs, MMDS

I am calling on all of my brothers and sisters with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), and Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs) to revitalize the discussion on the importance of ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Past efforts for ratification have fallen short and timing may be perfect for Independent Living advocates in each state to incorporate CRPD advocacy into their new 2016 – 2018 State Plan for Independent Livings (SPIL).

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesThe complete and universal ratification of this monumental international disability human rights treaty is crucial for our movement as it provides a much needed tool to improve accountability at all levels in America and to build upon the solid structure already in place. Our laws and systems are good but not perfect.

People with disabilities in America cannot afford to be complacent with our current laws, systems and outcomes. Statistical data such as unemployment rates among our community demonstrate this. The future of the Independent Living Movement has been entrusted to us and much more needs to be done. Future generations are depending on us. The CRPD is the tool we need to evaluate our systems and provide peer based input to encourage system improvements. It is this simple! We cannot give up or let this be made into a complicated or controversial issue. We need this treaty!

The CRPD is an extraordinary tool for us to use to advocate for improvement of the systems already in place. Additionally important, we can learn from our global peers and they can learn from us. Our movement knows no boundaries and our brothers and sisters here and across the globe will benefit from our ratification of this treaty.

Recently the IL movement in Oregon has experienced rejuvenation. CILs have successfully advocated for the return to a consumer bottom up SPIL development process. We have just completed statewide listening sessions obtaining input from Oregonians with disabilities and other community members. The turnout was extraordinary and CILs will be advocating that the input serve as the foundation of our SPIL; a SPIL that will create positive system changes spanning generations.

In rural eastern Oregon we received input CILs and SILC need to be more active in advocating for the ratification of the CRPD. EOCIL’s rural base recognizes the importance and possible positive impact of the treaty and we are committed to do what we can to advocate for our Oregon SPIL to include CRPD advocacy.

I hope others will join me in advocating for adding CRPD ratification advocacy to SPILs and their CIL work plans.

W. Kirt Toombs is the founder and CEO of Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, located in eastern Oregon. 

Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs Internship Program

Source: USICD

The summer 2015 Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program remains open for applications until January 28, 2015.

USICD Logo - US International Council on DisabilitiesThe United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD) launched its internship program in 2013. USICD’s internship program is geared for youth with disabilities from across the U.S. who are interested in careers in international development or foreign affairs.

The summer 2015 internship program will bring a group of talented graduate students, recent graduates, and rising juniors and seniors with disabilities to Washington, DC, for nine weeks. This will include a one-week training and orientation program followed by an eight-week internship at an international organization in the Washington, DC, area. USICD will cover the cost of fully-accessible housing during the program, reimburse travel expenses to and from DC, and provide a limited stipend. It is anticipated that the program will run from May 24 to July 25, 2015. These dates may be subject to change.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, must identify as a person with a disability, and must be either a student or a recent graduate with either a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree (“recent graduates” graduated between spring 2014 and spring 2015). Applications are accepted from candidates up to age 30. In limited circumstances (for example, U.S. veterans), some candidates may be eligible up to age 35.

Please disseminate this announcement among students and recent graduates who may be interested. If you represent an international organization in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area interested in hosting an intern from June 1 to July 24, 2015, please communicate with [email protected].

Application deadline for USICD’s summer 2015 internship program is January 28, 2015.

National Disability Leaders Outraged over Senate Inaction on Disability Treaty

Senate Chose Politics over more than 1 Billion People with Disabilities

Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Washington, DC – Today (December 3, 2014), on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, American disability leaders express outrage over the Senate’s inaction on ratification of the international Disability Treaty (the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD). As the end of the 114th Congress nears, it has become clear to disability leaders that the Senate will not pass the resolution for ratification of the CRPD this year.

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesThe Disability Treaty is supported by over 800 disability, civil rights, and faith groups, as well as over 20 of the top veterans’ service organizations and many major businesses as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is because not only would it protect the human rights of millions of people in other countries, it would also open the world to wounded warriors and other Americans with disabilities who wish to work, study, or travel abroad, and level the international playing field for American corporations.

Marca Bristo, retiring President of the United States International Council on Disabilities and long-time leader of the coalition for ratification of CRPD, said: “Unfortunately, the Senate chose to let politics, lies and misinformation rule the day instead of the rights of more than one billion of the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations. We deeply appreciate those Senators, both Democrat and Republican, who did the right thing and stood with the disability community on this important treaty.”

Susan Henderson, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said: “Ratification of the Disability treaty would have created an opportunity for the United States, which has led the world in recognizing and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, to provide leadership at the UN in the global fight for the rights of people with disabilities. It is shameful that the Senate is choosing to let this opportunity pass us by.”

Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, said: “Disability rights legislation has always been bipartisan given that disability can and does impact anyone. We regret that such unity for our human rights has gone missing on Capitol Hill, but are staunchly unified in our conviction for universal rights for all including one billion people with disabilities worldwide.”

Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind is disappointed with the failure to ratify this common-sense treaty, which would, among other things, protect the rights of Americans with disabilities who are living, working, or studying abroad. We have made great progress for people with disabilities, but there is much more to be done. We hope that the next session of the Senate will act swiftly to continue advancing the rights and dignity of people with disabilities in the United States and throughout the world.”

Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living, said: “Disability rights have always been bipartisan. It is shameful that a small number of ultra-conservatives could derail what should have been a slam-dunk.”  [Read more…]

New CRPD Video Available on YouTube

Source: United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesA brand new video lets you feel the energy of advocacy activities on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in DC during NCIL’s 2014 Annual Conference on Independent Living.

On July 29, IL advocates rallied and called for U.S. Senators to ratify the CRPD! Please propagate this captioned 6-minute video via your networks and remind your contacts that they can take action to support the CRPD at!

Action Alert: Senator Harkin Needs Your Help on CRPD in October!

Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Yesterday, September 27, Senator Harkin went onto the Senate floor to ask for a vote on ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Unfortunately, he was opposed by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and a vote was not taken.

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesThe Senate recesses this Friday, and will return November 12th for the final session of the year. We need your help to ensure CRPD receives a vote upon the Senate’s return!

From now on, if Senators are not willing to commit to supporting the CRPD, but are not willing to state specific concerns and work to resolve them with new RUD (reservations, understandings and declarations) language, then we must count them as opposed to the treaty!

The opposition continues to generate calls, and your Senators need to hear from you throughout the recess that the community supports this issue. CALL often and spread the word. Attend town halls and candidate forums. Tell them we will not wait any longer: the time is now!

Visit to take action!

See also:

For Immediate Release: Senator Harkin (D-IA) Requests Unanimous Consent for Disability Treaty, But Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) Objects

Contact: Kevin Locke, U.S. International Council on Disabilities

[email protected], (202) 359-6960

USICD President Marca Bristo says because of a well-funded campaign of misinformation waged by the fringe opposition, some senators do not support.

Senator Tom Harkin said this afternoon from the Senate floor, “This is another sad, irresponsible day in the history of the United States Senate.” This statement came after his request for unanimous consent on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or Disability Treaty, was objected to by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), citing disproved concerns about US sovereignty.

This latest action by the right falls on the heels of the United Nations statement on September 16, that Guyana became the 150th nation to ratify the treaty. Of the 158 countries that have signed the treaty, only eight have still to ratify it. Unfortunately – and conspicuously – the United States is one of them.

President of the US International Council on Disabilities Marca Bristo said, “We are tremendously grateful to Senator Harkin for his continued fight to ratify the treaty, alongside more than 800 disability organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, businesses, veterans groups, human and civil rights groups, and faith organizations. This is the American mainstream. It is disappointing that some senators do not support it due to a well-funded campaign of misinformation waged by a fringe opposition. We are united in demanding that senators put aside politics and irrational, fear-based arguments advocated by extremists on the right.”

Information Alert: Senator Harkin to Ask for Unanimous Consent on the CRPD Today!

We’ve just learned that Senator Harkin intends to go onto the Senate floor at approximately 12:45 p.m. Eastern today to speak on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and ask for a unanimous consent vote on the treaty.

NCIL and the US International Council on Disabilities hope to get as many people in the gallery as possible, so please join us in supporting Senator Harkin if you are able. Gallery passes can be obtained from any Senate office.

If you are not able to attend in person, we believe you should be able to watch it online.

Please call your Senators now and ask them to support ratification of the CRPD. The world is watching!

50 State Call to Action: Ratify CRPD Now!

We have entered a key moment for ratification of the CRPD. The Senate has returned to work and will only be in session through September 23 at the latest. After an exhilarating July, in which a new resolution for ratification passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) with bipartisan support, and in which our collective voice was heard loudly through phone calls, social media, and a strong coalition presence on the Hill that included business, veterans, civil rights, and disability advocates, we must seize this moment.

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesPlease see the new one-page summary of the resolution (PDF or plain text) that passed out of the SFRC and its amendments. These amendments address significant concerns that have been raised by opponents of the treaty and clear the way for ratification of the treaty. Bipartisan Senate supporters are now working to secure commitments from their colleagues for the final vote, and our community organizations must act now. Without action in September, achieving success this year becomes significantly more challenging as we face election season and a lame duck session of Congress.

Take Action

Visit and call your Senators! The message is simple: RATIFY CRPD!

Additional efforts are needed from advocates in the key states of Georgia (Chambliss & Isakson), Mississippi (Cochran & Wicker), South Carolina (Graham & Scott), North Carolina (Burr), Ohio (Portman), Missouri (Blunt), Kansas (Roberts) and Iowa (Grassley).

If you or your Board Members have personal reach to any of these key members, now is the time for you to make that call to the Senator, by-pass his staff if possible, and get a commitment that he will stand with the disability and veteran communities.

This is a crucial moment for us to join Bob Dole and our Senate champions to get this done. We cannot be silent. Thank you for your long support and your advocacy at this crucial moment!