Last Thursday was the Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the CRPD, and I was lucky enough to attend. I woke up bright and early, hopped into a cab (the driver said he was still half-asleep. Yikes!), and arrived at Dirksen Senate Building at 8:20 for a 9am hearing. When I got there, there was already a line queuing down the hall.
The excitement and energy (everyone had grabbed a coffee in Dirksen's cafeteria) was almost tangible. This was it--the hearing that would determine whether or not the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) would be ratified in time for the 22nd anniversary of the ADA on July 26th.
People were laughing and shaking hands and handing out stickers and other mementoes of solidarity on this crucial issue that our community has worked so hard to push forward.
The doors opened to the chamber a few minutes before 9 and the room rapidly filled with a presence that could only be described as powerful.
I sat with a group of my fellow AAPD interns and we excitedly took pictures of the chamber (which was gorgeous! I'm told that it was purposely selected as the creme de la creme of hearing rooms) and talked about what we hoped would be a successful hearing. Senators Harkin and McCain would stop and shake hands with members of the audience as they made their ways across the floor to the "witness stand," which was really a table in the center of the chamber facing the Senate Committee and a huge camera. Senator Harkin graciously chatted with my friends and I, and as if he was a rock star and we his groupies, we smiled and complimented his tie and showered him with well-wishes and support.
Although we don't know the exact outcome of the hearing yet (the Committee is set to vote this Thursday), the majority of Senators seemed to definitely support the Convention, as well as wishing to ratify it speedily.
All thanks to the ADA and the amazing and valuable people it has supported and protected.
Once again, the United State's landmark human rights legislation will forever change the global landscape of respect and equality for all people--regardless of physical or mental ability.