Is The U.S. The World Leader In Disability Rights?

Posted by – August 7, 2009

So, the U.S. has now signed on to the historic UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). People are saying this is wonderful, the ACLU is saying that it marks America’s return as a world human rights leader (by the way, the Senate has yet to ratify the treaty). I’m concerned that this is largely happy talk, just more lip service while meanwhile we’re badly behind in enforcing the Rehab Act, the ADA, Olmstead, and the other disability rights legislation we’ve fought so hard for. Will the CRPA become yet another unenforced law on top of that growing pile? Particularly grating to me was this commentary on AAPD’s Justice For All blog, which closes with this:

The US can engage in meaningful partnerships across sectors and help developing nations with the construction of accessible infrastructure, expanding inclusive education and vocational training opportunities. By signing the Convention the US is dedicated to these efforts. Can we make a different, “Yes We Can!”

Wut?? The U.S. is going to be like the Peace Corps for accessibility of the third-world’s infrastructure or some $#!T?! PLEASE!! We can’t even implement our own disability rights laws! As we speak, the feds are moving against ENTIRE TOWNS that are inaccessible and violating the ADA! Don’t send the Accessibility Corps to Africa or India; first send them to renovate the Mobile Public Schools! First send them to Ann St. in Lower Manhattan, where most of the businesses are inaccessible, and all over the five boroughs, where inaccessible pre-war buildings seem to be the rule, not the exception. Where’s the US’ “meaningful partnerships across sectors” to address this inaccessible McDonald’s on 429 7th Ave. off W 34th, which is a major tourist area?

Picture of some serious McFail in accessibility.  Alejandra provides us an important public service by documenting the many accessibility fails of NYC

Picture of some serious McFail in accessibility. Alejandra provides us an important public service by documenting the many accessibility fails of NYC

We weren’t looking for some McDs yesterday, we were searching for pizza. The Spinelli’s pizza next door was accessible. When a locally-owned pizzeria tops a mega-giant multi-national chain in basic accessibility, that gigantic corporation needs to do some rethinking. As a special double bird to the elderly and disabled, this particular McDonald’s location has accessible entrances on either side of the stairs…that only open from the INSIDE, and only lead to stairs for the basement, staff confirmed. That leaves the middle stairs as the only access point for this location. Well done 7th Ave. McDonald’s, that’s some top-notch FAIL!

The U.S. has a lot of changes to make before we are a disability rights leader, an example to follow.

Any idea of when I’ll be able to access currently INACCESSIBLE public businesses? Maybe for the ADA’s 29th anniversary? 39th? Dammit, where’s the enforcement? We have no room to finger-wag and advise other countries about disability rights!

Nick