Advancing the Disabilities Treaty
United Spinal Association’s program, VetsFirst, is urging the United States Senate to move forward with ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disabilities Treaty) following the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment in Bond v. United States. The ruling removes an important barrier that key senators had identified as hindering further consideration of the Disabilities Treaty. The Disabilities Treaty is a United Nations human rights treaty that promotes the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act around the world.
VetsFirst is joining over 800 disability, veteran, and faith organizations and businesses to call on the Senate to ratify the Disabilities Treaty.
“Now that the Supreme Court’s decision has confirmed our assertions that the Bond case was not an impediment to moving forward on the Disabilities Treaty, VetsFirst urges the Senate to make every effort to ensure its ratification by the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 2014,” says Heather Ansley, VP of VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association.
“Ratification of this treaty, which is based on the ADA, will foster the opportunities that will create increased accessibility for Americans with disabilities and disabled veterans as they travel abroad for work, education, and recreation,” Ansley adds.
The Disabilities Treaty sets out the obligations of countries that ratify it to promote, protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of people with disabilities. To date, 158 nations have signed the treaty, including the United States, and 147 nations have ratified it.
“It’s now time to restore American leadership on disability rights by moving forward immediately with ratification of the Disabilities Treaty,” says Marca Bristo, president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. “One billion people worldwide with disabilities have waited long enough.”
Gaskins Named United Spinal President
On June 10, United Spinal Association announced Joseph Gaskins, an experienced lobbyist, accomplished executive in the wireless industry and wheelchair user from Seattle as its permanent president and CEO.
Gaskins took over last December as United Spinal’s interim CEO after the resignation of Paul J. Tobin. He has been a member of United Spinal’s board of directors since April 2013.
“Joe Gaskins has the commitment and desire to advance the cause of United Spinal Association — enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. His business acumen and organizational and leadership skills ensure our future successes,” says James Weisman, United Spinal’s senior vice president and general counsel.
Gaskins will continue to work closely with United Spinal’s board and staff as he draws on his vast knowledge of accessibility issues to expand and revitalize the organization’s programs and services.
“We have accomplished a great deal in the past six months to strengthen United Spinal Association and prepare the organization for a successful and rewarding future,” says Gaskins. “I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish on behalf of our members and the larger disability community in the years to come.”
Gaskins has devised creative solutions to obstacles in both his personal and professional lives. Since being spinal cord-injured in a hit-and-run accident 27 years ago, Gaskins has worked in the wireless industry as a lobbyist and an entrepreneur.
As a triathlete, he has utilized adaptive sports to manage living with a disability, as well as to serve as a motivational outlet while he pursued his career goals. He also has traveled extensively, and has a vast knowledge of accessibility issues in countries around the world.
As a businessman, he has solved many interesting problems, including how to move a live 3-ton killer whale almost 4,000 miles. (As the director of special projects for billionaire investor Craig McCaw, Gaskins coordinated the 1998 move of Keiko — the killer whale featured in the movie Free Willy — from Oregon to Iceland.)
‘Save the Wheelchair’ Raises Over $12,000
United Spinal member Kesha Pilot’s crowdfunding campaign to raise money to support United Spinal’s Third Annual Roll on Capitol Hill and bring attention to the need for complex rehab technology closed May 16, having raised $12,011. All funds were used to help cover a portion of the travel, transportation and lodging expenses for a group of wheelchair users/disability advocates who attended the Roll on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 22-25, 2014.
The crowdfunding venture was a first for Pilot, a 27 year-old wheelchair user and disability advocate from Hot Springs, Ark.
Employment Guide Highlighted on VA Web Portal
The White House recently announced the deployment of an online Veterans Employment Center on the VA’s eBenefits portal.
The Disabled Veterans Employment and Education On-Line Guide produced by VetsFirst is one of two nonprofit resources available through the center under the Disability Links in the Disability Assistive Technology section.
VetsFirst’s easy-to-navigate employment guide offers disabled veterans a variety of tools to realize their academic and career goals. It provides a step-by-step outline to finding employment and covers unique needs such as workplace accommodations, adjustments or modifications to finding employment. Other key features include an extensive library of disability resources tailored to the needs of veterans, as well as information on developing self-advocacy skills; understanding disability rights; finding federal employment; and assessing academic needs as a person living with a disability.
For more, visit www.ebenefits.va.gov.