The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Bond v. United States earlier this week should allay concerns that ratification of international conventions could be used to expand federal authority beyond the limits of the Constitution.

This was an important ruling for people with intellectual and other disabilities in the United States and around the world.  Why?  Because it should dispel fears that some opponents of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have held – namely that ratification of this disability treaty would change U.S. law related to accessibility.   We now have the highest court in the land signaling that that it won’t.  Instead, United States ratification of the disability treaty will send a powerful signal to the global community about America’s leadership on disability rights.

It’s important to note that equal access to sports and recreation programs is a strong tenant of the disability treaty.  In this way, it recognizes the critical role that sports can play in empowering those with disabilities – giving them the chance to participate more fully in their communities while demonstrating skills and talents that break down stigma and stereotype about their ability.  In far too many of the 170 countries where Special Olympics operates around the world, those opportunities to experience the power of sport are sorely limited – especially for those with intellectual disabilities.    We need to add the United States to those 130 countries who have ratified the disability treaty, and in so doing have promoted equality for people with intellectual and other forms of disabilities in all aspects of their life – including on the field of play.

If you care about breaking down international barriers that face those with disabilities (including Americans with disabilities who travel abroad) and believe that America should play a role in promoting the rights (and access to sports!) of people with intellectual disabilities not just here at home but wherever they live, then I hope you’ll join me in voicing your support for the disability treaty.  U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has indicated that he intends to put the Disabilities Treaty up for a vote in the very near future, and the bi-partisan support for its passage continues to build.   The time to call and write your Senator is now, letting them know you support the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and hope they’ll do the same!

– Timothy Shriver
Chairman of Special Olympics

(More information, including how to make your voice heard, is available at www.disabilitytreaty.org.)

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