Last evening I attended the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USCID) second annual gala on the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The event was held at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, DC and was hosted by H.E. Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland to the US. At the gala there was a special presentation of the Dole-Harkin Award to Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Additionally we honored Kalle Konkkola, Chair of The Abilis Foundation of Finland. Special Guests included Senator Harkin and Senator Robert Dole. Corporate sponsors included AT&T, Google, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, National Organization on Disability, New Edition Consulting, Incorporated, The Bowen Group, and Alston and Bird.
Former senators Harkin and Dole played critical roles in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and in their respective retirements have continued fighting for the adoption of the CRPD (the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities). The global fight for disability rights both in the United States and abroad is far from done. Even this morning the wait staff at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington made a stink about my guide dog. The daily experience of disability goes from joy to degradation very quickly. Every disabled person knows this.
Accordingly its particularly important that the hard work of promoting and sustaining disability rights–which are human rights, affecting women, children, refugees, people from every nation–be engaged by advocates and governmental and corporate allies alike.
At the USCID gala we heard from Senators Harkin and Dole about the early fight to create and adopt the ADA. Both men alluded to the current erosion of bi-partisanship in US politics. Certainly had current conditions been extant 25 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act would never have passed. The Dole-Harkin Award was presented to New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte for her bi-partisan effort to promote adoption of the CRPD. She is one of the few Republicans to have done so,
It is of course not easy to be disabled. But it is harder facing social and architectural obstacles. Interestingly the Finnish Embassy is both beautiful and fully accessible.
That’s the world everyone should fight for.
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