Washington, D.C. – Representative Don Young of Alaska’s At-Large Congressional District and Representative Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District introduced bipartisan legislation to help ensure that the State Department makes disability rights an international priority.
The Office of International Disability Rights Act, H.R. 3373, would establish in law the Office of International Disability Rights at the U.S. State Department, to be supervised by a Special Advisor of International Disability Rights. The Special Advisor position has not been filled since the start of the Trump Administration.
Under the bipartisan bill, the Office of International Disability Rights would lead efforts to promote the rights of people with disabilities around the world. The legislation also requires State Department personnel to undergo disability inclusion training.
“The United States helps lead the world in promoting the rights of the disabled, and the Office of International Disability Rights at the State Department is one of the most important tools we have in this global fight,” said Congressman Young (AK). “It is critical we work together to defend the inherent worth and dignity of all people, particularly those with disabilities, and I am proud to join Congresswoman Dina Titus on this legislation to codify the office into law. It is my hope that the work done by the State Department will continue to promote inclusion for people with disabilities in communities across the world.”
“The full inclusion of people with disabilities is a fundamental aspect of democracy, and it must be a priority for U.S. foreign policy,” said Congresswoman Titus (NV-1). “This legislation will help ensure that the State Department uses its diplomatic tools to promote the empowerment of persons with disabilities worldwide. We must regain our footing on the world stage as the leading defender of human rights for all people.”
"Congresswoman Titus' bill to establish the office is a breath of fresh air,” said U.S. International Council on Disabilities Executive Director Isabel Hodge. “Having a permanent office and special advisor has been something the disability community has wanted for a long time. The U.S. is currently absent from the global disability movement. As a result, foreign countries are going to other countries with less expertise and not receiving optimal results.”
“If this bill became law, the State Department would be in an even stronger position to partner with disabled persons’ organizations, civil society and governments to empower the one billion persons with disabilities worldwide,” said International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) President and CEO Tony Banbury. “When the rights of persons with disabilities are fully realized, all of society benefits. Full inclusion of persons with disabilities is a central tenet of IFES’ work, as it promotes peaceful, prosperous democracies. I thank Congresswoman Titus for her continued leadership on international disability rights.”
“As the world gradually moves forward to end marginalization for the more than one billion disabled people around the world, the United States – once seen as the leader in disability rights – lags behind,” said former Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department Judith E. Heumann. “Passage of this legislation would enable State to more comprehensively address the inclusion of disabled people and reclaim the leadership role America must play and help the U.S. regain its status in the world.”