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Senator Kirk Testifies at Foreign Relations Committee: Our Soldiers Are Victors, Not Victims

Supports Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities


WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–November 5, 2013.  In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing regarding Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) testified today in support of the Treaty saying:

“The Americans in this country who are disabled, like Steve Baskis, an Illinois veteran who lost his sight in Iraq, cannot be held back. Our soldiers are victors, not victims. This convention does not threaten our laws, sovereignty or taxpayer dollars, and ensures they are treated with the same dignity and access abroad as they are here at home.”

A VIDEO of Senator Kirk’s remarks at the hearing can be found here.

Senator Kirk’s official testimony is as follows:

I am honored to come before the Committee to express my support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As you know, in January 2012, I suffered an ischemic stroke that left me dependent on a cane or wheelchair to get around. I walk slowly, speak slowly, and have limited vision on my left side. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability laws and polices we have in place here in the United States, I have not been sidelined by my disabilities.

For younger Americans, it may be difficult to imagine a country where sidewalk corners don’t have ramps or where public buses don’t have hydraulic lifts — but in many parts of the world these basic accessibility measures still don’t exist. Throughout the world too many persons with disabilities, including innocent children, live in the shadows — socially, economically and politically shunned, solely on the basis of their disabilities.

America must remain the voice for the voiceless – the leader to end disability-based discrimination and exclusion throughout the world. We now have commitments from many countries to promote and ensure equal access for their citizens living with disabilities. The CRPD is the mechanism for these commitments to become a reality.

I understand the skepticism among some of my colleagues with regard to United Nations treaties. I remain a critic of several UN agencies and treaties for their lack of transparency, accountability and distribution of power to tyrants and human rights abusers. But this treaty is not about politics, it isn’t about pity, it is about opportunity and access for those of us living with disabilities.

Unlike other UN treaties, there are really only advantages to ratification of the CRPD — and the American people understand these advantages. A coalition of more than 700 disability, faith, veteran, and business organizations have voiced their support of the treaty. They know that the CRPD will help unlock American access abroad — all without threatening our sovereignty, changing our laws or spending taxpayer money.

Think about our wounded warriors and other Americans with disabilities hoping to travel the world. Will their wheel chair fit through their hotel room door? Will their business conference venue have an elevator? Will they be allowed to bring their guide stick or will it be mistaken for a weapon? Put simply, will they be denied the same dignity and access abroad that we now take for granted here at home?

Consider this inspiring story from one of my constituents. Coming from a military family, Steve Baskis, from Normal, Illinois, had always known he wanted to serve his country. In January 2007, he enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Iraq a year later. His life was forever changed when while on combat patrol an explosively formed penetrator sent a projectile through his armored vehicle, killing his friend and leaving him without vision and control of his left hand. Grateful for the second chance at life, Steve has endeavored to live life to the fullest, traveling domestically and internationally to compete in various sporting events and most impressive, climb mountains. However, it is not without challenges — he once said it is “more difficult to navigate through airport security in some foreign countries than it is to climb a mountain.” Despite the barriers, he has not allowed his disability to thwart his quest for adventure.

I regularly go to Walter Reed Medical Center for my own physical therapy. Watching our wounded warriors fighting to re-enter the world, I am constantly inspired by their determination in the face of adversity. They, like Steve, fought for our freedom and paid a heavy price; let’s fight for their freedoms and defend their rights and access when they travel abroad.

In addition to our veterans, the CRPD will help advocate for the rights of our disabled athletes that wish to represent the US on the international stage — like 15-year old Brody Roybal from Northlake, IL, who is the youngest athlete on the US Sled Hockey national team that will soon compete in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics. Brody proudly represents the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) Blackhawks, the very same facility where I completed my rehabilitation.

While my stroke prevented me from voting for this treaty in the last Congress, I am proud to be here today to lend my support this time around. The U.S. Senate should do the right thing and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Source: kirk.senate.gov


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