Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Disability Rights Resolutions for the March 16 Democratic Caucuses

If you live in Colorado and you are registered as a Democrat, I hope you’ll help support disability rights becoming part of the Party platform. You can do this by introducing disability rights resolutions at your neighborhood caucus tomorrow night, March 16. I have drafted two resolutions — one about health care reform and community choice, the other about ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The text of both of these resolutions is pasted below. Click on these two links to download printable, PDF copies of both —





WHEREAS Americans with disabilities and chronic health conditions rely heavily on public health programs, primarily Medicaid and Medicare, not only for primary health care but also for long-term care needs; and

WHEREAS Medicaid and Medicare contain a strong institutional bias, with funding policies favoring placement in nursing homes and other facilities, thus draining resources away from home and community based care; and

WHEREAS every state participating in the federal Medicaid program is required to provide nursing home services, but home and community based services are optional, and are thereby unavailable in many states; and

WHEREAS sixty-seven percent of Medicaid long-term care dollars pay for institutional services, while the remaining thirty-three percent must pay for all community based services; and

WHEREAS the vast majority of people disabled by age, injury, or illness would prefer to receive services in their own homes rather than in institutions, yet many are forced by current policies to enter facilities in order to get the assistance they need; and

WHEREAS the institutional bias not only deprives people of choice, home, and independence, but also costs taxpayers far more than would a comprehensive nationwide system of home and community based services; and

WHEREAS as the population ages and more people require long-term care, the current institutionally-biased health care system will become more expensive and unsustainable; and

WHEREAS the Community Choice Act (CCA), introduced in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, would allow individuals to choose home and community based services as an alternative to placement in a nursing facility; and

WHEREAS the CCA would provide states with financial assistance and incentives to reform their long-term care service systems to provide services in the most integrated setting;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that

THE COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY supports the concept of community choice in long-term care programs; and that

THE COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY pledges to ensure that health care reform legislation and policy proposals emphasize choice and independence rather than institutionalization.



WHEREAS at least ten percent of the world’s population, more than 650 million people, have physical or mental disabilities; and

WHEREAS throughout the world, many people with disabilities are denied their human rights and kept on the margins of society; and

WHEREAS the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Convention”) on December 13, 2006; and

WHEREAS the Convention establishes the legal obligations of governments to recognize and respect the rights of persons with disabilities; and

WHEREAS the purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity; and

WHEREAS the Convention sets forth general principles including individual autonomy, independence, nondiscrimination, full participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity, equality of opportunity, accessibility, equality between women and men, and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities; and

WHEREAS the Convention is crucial for the social and economic development of societies worldwide, including in developing countries where eighty percent of people with disabilities live;

WHEREAS eighty-two nations have already ratified the Convention; and

WHEREAS at President Obama’s direction Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, signed the Convention on July 30, 2009; and

WHEREAS adoption of the Convention by the United States requires ratification by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that

THE COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY calls on all Democratic senators to actively support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and that

THE COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY urges the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as soon as possible.

Why I Support Obama

Election Day is now just a couple of weeks away and, in fact, some people are already voting, either by mail or at early voting locations. I’ve been thinking that I should write a post directly addressing the disability community, i.e. people with disabilities and our family members, friends, and allies. (Or maybe I should define “disability community” more broadly, to mean anyone who has — or will someday have — a physical or mental impairment, or a loved one who does. By that measure, we could be a truly decisive voting bloc!)

Polls show that somewhere around six percent of voters are still undecided, and I know that at least some of those will ultimately make their choices based at least partly on issues related to disability. It appears that the candidates, this time around, are somewhat aware of this constituency.

Early in his campaign, Obama began recruiting knowledgeable disability policy advisers, developing a coherent disability policy agenda, and reaching out to voters with disabilities. The clarity and thoroughness of his “Disability Plan” attest to the close attention Obama and his team have been paying to disability issues. For more information about Obama’s position on disability issues, go to .

For his part, John McCain appointed a running mate who claims to have a special affinity with families of “special needs” children, by virtue of having a child with Down syndrome. (Though as a friend of mine recently pointed out, Trig Palin really isn’t a “special needs” child yet — he’s a little baby, with pretty much the same needs as every baby. Sarah Palin has yet to face the kinds of educational, employment, and support concerns that confront the families of children and adults with developmental disabilities.)

For the record, I’m strongly supporting Barack Obama. I have several reasons, some connected to disability advocacy, and some to other concerns. In no particular order, here are the stances and qualities I most admire in this candidate:

  • He seems to get disability. By that I mean that he appears to understand disability, not simply as a private family matter, but as a broader concern involving funding for educational and social programs, and recognition and protection of our civil and human rights. While Palin talks about being “a friend” to special needs families, Obama talks about fully funding IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, so that public schools will have the resources they need to educate students with disabilities appropriately, alongside their nondisabled peers whenever possible. While Palin and McCain highlight her new son as evidence of her “family values,” Obama vows to invest in early intervention and developmental assistance to equip disabled kids for future success.
  • He sees beyond US borders, recognizing global connections. In the disability context, this means he will urge the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I have been rooting for ratification since 2004, when I had the opportunity to witness and report on the early process of drafting the treaty at the UN. We are, in fact, a worldwide community, and Obama knows this.
  • He believes in providing needed support services to people with disabilities in their homes and communities, rather than forcing them into institutions. Obama’s commitment to this issue is not just hypothetical; he is a Senate co-sponsor of the Community Choice Act, which would expand community-based care throughout the nation. He also supports the Fair Home Health Care Act, in order to improve home care jobs, making it easier to recruit and retain high-quality workers.
  • He understands the original intent of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Obama objects to the way conservative courts have narrowed definitions of disability, and favored employers against plaintiffs in discrimination cases. One of his most lasting legacies may be the appointments he will make at all levels of the judiciary, including the US Supreme Court. He says he “will appoint judges and justices who respect Congress’ role as a co-equal, democratically elected branch of government and who exhibit empathy with what it means to be an American with a disability.”
  • He’s a good writer. I recommend Obama’s book, Dreams of My Father, as an enlightening and literary memoir. What, that’s not a good reason to vote for someone for president? Well maybe it’s not sufficient in and of itself. But the ability to construct a graceful sentence, to tell genuine and compelling stories, to narrate a world in which personal events and insights connect to historical precedents — these are valuable, transferable skills, skills which we have not seen in the White House for a while.

You may agree with my reasons for supporting Obama, and/or you may have reasons of your own. Or you may even disagree, and have found some reasons to vote for McCain-Palin or for one of the third-party candidates. Either way, now is the time to exercise — to demand — your right as a citizen to participate in our democracy. So, no excuses — VOTE!