Takoma Park, Maryland — Motivational speaker and disability advocate Jessica Cox, the world’s first person without arms to obtain a pilot’s license, is traveling to Washington, D.C., to persuade Senators to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Last December, the Senate failed to pass the CRPD by five votes.
The CRPD, a treaty that protects the rights of people with disabilities and which was modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has been adopted by more than 150 countries. During her visit to Washington June 4-7, Cox hopes to convince more Senators to support the CRPD when the treaty next comes to the floor for a vote.
Cox plans to share her personal story and the stories of other people with disabilities she has met in the U.S. and abroad with decision makers in Washington. Despite being born without arms, Cox earned a degree from University of Arizona and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, runs her own business, and flies an airplane. She recently returned from Ethiopia, where she visited children with disabilities taking part in Handicap International’s inclusive education project. Ethiopia ratified the CRPD in 2008.
“I was lucky enough to be born in the U.S. where disability laws enabled me to go the same schools and participate in the same activities as other kids,” says Cox. “Traveling to Ethiopia with Handicap International, I saw how new disability laws, including the CRPD, were changing lives: children with disabilities who had been kept out of school are now gaining an education. Since the U.S. government is supporting programs that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in Ethiopia and other countries, it only makes sense that the U.S. Senate should also support the CRPD.”
During her time in Ethiopia, Jessica visited four accessible schools where Handicap International is working thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “I remember meeting a 17-year-old girl with intellectual disabilities named Hodan, and she was just starting first grade, because her parents had kept her at home for 16 years,” says Cox. “Before Handicap International started its program, there were no schools equipped to teach children like Hodan, so her parents felt she had no future.”
If passed in the U.S., the CRPD would not supersede any U.S. laws, but its ratification here would demonstrate the country’s support for the human rights of people with disabilities in countries where those rights are routinely denied. The treaty is also vital to protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities, including veterans, when traveling or living overseas.
“As a nonsignatory of the treaty, the U.S.—the only major Western country that has not yet signed—stands among nations with serious human-rights abuses like North Korea and Zimbabwe,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director of Handicap International U.S., which is coordinating Cox’s visit to Washington. “It’s time for Congress to right this wrong and ratify the CRPD.”
[Editor’s note: Jessica Cox is available for interviews in Washington, D.C., June 4-6]
About Handicap International
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 30 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization's principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and winner of the 2011 Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.
Mica Bevington, Director of Communications and Marketing
Handicap International US
+1 (240) 450-3531
Molly Feltner, Communications and Marketing Officer
Handicap International US
+1 (240) 450-3528