In the United States and around the world — where too often there are jobs without people and people without jobs — there is vast and often untapped potential in individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation passed in 1990, has made it possible for more U.S. citizens to participate and thrive in the workforce and contribute to the economy.
Globally, there are many people with disabilities who are willing and able to work, but they don’t have the same accommodations.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty modeled after the ADA, would help change that. It would establish a framework for creating legislation and policies in other countries. And it would protect the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities, giving them greater opportunity to work, travel, and lead full and productive lives.
Now we need the Senate to approve it. There are plenty of reasons to support the CRPD — the most obvious and important one being that it’s the right thing to do for people across the globe who are living and working with disabilities. But there are economic and competitiveness benefits for the United States as well.
The CRPD would leverage the leadership and innovation of American business in setting accessibility standards. Guided by the ADA and pioneered by the private sector, the United States has developed the best products, technologies and services to help people with disabilities. An active U.S. role in implementing the CRPD would enable us to share these standards worldwide and help meet the needs of 1 billion people with disabilities — while creating growth and jobs in our own economy.
Moreover, ratifying the CRPD would create a level playing field for American businesses. Our companies compete with foreign counterparts that don’t have to adhere to our high standards for accommodation and accessibility. That’s a disadvantage for U.S. businesses and a disservice to global consumers with disabilities.
Success in the global economy often means doing business beyond our own borders. Until other countries ensure that people with disabilities have access and opportunities to work and travel, we will always be limited in our ability to do business abroad. The CRPD would greatly expand the pool of available workers for positions in U.S. businesses overseas and allow American workers to travel and conduct business freely in other countries.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee soon will consider this important treaty. We urge our leaders to seize the opportunity to boost the U.S. economy and help people with disabilities worldwide.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.