On July 29,SDI Co-Director Colleen Starkloff joined more than 800 advocates from across the countryon a boisterous march through Washington, D.C. to the Capitol for the annual disability rights rally organized by the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) to visit members of Congress.
“You could say that we ’took the hill,’” says Starkloff, whose late husband, Max Starkloff, co-founded NCIL in 1982 and served as its president through 1985.
Disability rights advocates including Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representative Ron Barber (D-AZ) among many others at the rally took NCIL’s message to the Capitol to urge Senate ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The two-mile march, rally and congressional visits were part of NCIL’s 2014 Annual Conference on Independent Living, which Starkloff describes as “a gathering of one, like-minded, forward-thinking group fighting for disability rights and for a world that will welcome people with disabilities.”
“Everybody in the disability community is focused on two major issues right now. One: Senate ratification of the CRPD and, two: lifting our people out of poverty through employment,” says Starkloff, who joined NCIL members in visiting elected officials to encourage CRPD ratification.
The votes of only five Republican U.S. Senators are necessary to approve U.S. ratification of CRPD, an international human rights treaty ratified in 146 nations and the European Union, but not in the U.S. Starkloff visited personally with Missouri Senator Roy Blunt to request his support. “He said, ‘We are reviewing it.’”
Starkloff is Chairman of Centene Corporation’s National Disability Advisory Council. At NCIL’s annual conference, she presented NCIL’s “Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award” to disability rights leader Anthony Lee “Tony” Coelho, a former United States congressman from California and key sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Coelho is a former chairman and current member of the Epilepsy Foundation‘s national board of directors. President Bill Clinton appointed Coelho Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, a position he held from 1994 to 2001; he also served as Vice Chair of the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities.
“Tony Coelho is among the influential people leading the charge for ratification of the CRPD,” says Starkloff. “He is working to empower people with disabilities and help them find jobs that are right for them.”
“We absolutely must create a world that welcomes people with disabilities.”