UW News

April 24, 2008

Thornburgh to speak on disability rights

Dick Thornburgh is mostly known as the former United States attorney general who also served as two-term governor of Pennsylvania, but he’s also the father of a son who has physical and intellectual disabilities.

Thornburgh will speak at the UW School of Law today as part of the first academic symposium to explore disability human rights law. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in 138 William Gates, and Thornburgh is scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m.

Participants will examine the new United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It will be part of a case study of Asia, where people with disabilities have traditionally been ignored or hidden away. Discussion topics will include citizenship and integration into society, development and poverty, global health, the law and advocacy.

“Nations do look to the U.N. for standards and norms on such matters as disabilities, and this symposium is an opportunity to discuss what’s being done, and what needs to be done,” said Paul Steven Miller, a UW law professor who’s also lead organizer of the symposium.

So far, 24 nations have ratified the U.N. conventions since they were adopted in 2006, but the U.S. has not. In more complicated legislative systems, ratification takes longer, Miller said.

Thornburgh, however, wants the U.S. and other peer nations to step up. As a member of the first Bush administration, Thornburgh led the fight for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

 In a telephone interview Monday, Thornburgh said he’s puzzled regarding the lag in ratification. “In my remarks, I’ll urge that the U.S. not only ratify the U.N. conventions but take a leadership role as becomes a country known for its leadership.”

The two-day symposium is presented by the UW School of Law in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Sponsors include the Disability Funders Network, the law firm of K L Gates, and a number of UW schools, departments and programs.

For more information, go here.