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Author: David Richman

Disability & Foreign Policy: What are Senate Candidates’ Positions?

Washington, Nov. 1 – America is known for its history of standing up for people who are oppressed around the world. As that tradition moves forward, it includes the rights of people with disabilities.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for Senate about their foreign policy and national security plans to continue America’s tradition of standing up for the rights of people with disabilities around the world as part of its #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 17 in the Senate questionnaire: “In your foreign policy and national security plan, do you plan to continue America’s tradition of standing up for the rights of oppressed people, including people with disabilities, around the world?” This was adapted from a similar question, number 16, in the presidential questionnaire.

Overwhelmingly from both sides of the aisle, political candidates answered in the affirmative.

“Our country should support any nation in achieving a level of disability rights and opportunities available to those living with disabilities in the United States,” Democrat North Carolina State Rep. Deborah Ross replied.

Her opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr, agreed that the United States “has a responsibility to set the highest possible standard.” He added: “The United States also has the ability to influence the behavior of other nations in how they treat their citizens. It is important that America’s leaders continue to use every opportunity in international fora to speak out on behalf of the oppressed, including people with disabilities who are being mistreated.”

Many candidates also talked about their support for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) treaty, which is supported by hundreds of disability organizations and Democrats and Republicans alike. CRPD’s goal is to protect the rights of people with disabilities globally. Inspired by the framework of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the CRPD was signed by the United Nations in 2009. On December 4, 2012, the Senate considered the ratification of the act, but it fell five votes shy of a supermajority vote. Opponents raised questions about U.S. sovereignty and other issues. Since that failure, there has been a call for ratification in subsequent congresses, with a strong possibility for a vote in the 115th Congress.

In Illinois, both Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth are passionate proponents of the measure. Kirk recently became a member of the disability community after having a stroke in 2012 and Duckworth joined the community after injuries sustained in 2004 in Iraq.

“In 2014, Senator Kirk encouraged Senate ratification on this measure and stated that the CRPD will ensure that our wounded warriors and disabled citizens are entitled to the same rights and protections around the world that they enjoy here at home,” his campaign wrote in the questionnaire.

Duckworth, like Kirk, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In her response to the questionnaire, she said she “didn’t risk my life in Iraq to come back to a country that ignores human rights atrocities and turns its back on those in need” and stressed the need to “ensure the long-term safety of Americans at home and abroad.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below: