Jan./Feb. 2016
New Year Message from USICD President
Woman with short blond hair_ black jacket_ white blouse_ pearl necklace
USICD President Patricia Morrissey
The U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) has a lot to do and is looking forward to your being part of that vision. We have a very dynamic board and high-energy staff. Here's hoping that you will follow what we do, help us when you can, and ask your friends to join USICD as members.  Let me give you a few updates that I hope you will share with others about USICD's work.

USICD Celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities with Gala!

On December 2, the eve of the 2015 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, USICD celebrated with a gala reception hosted in partnership with Embassy of Finland in Washington, DC.  USICD opened the evening calling for a moment of silence in solidarity with all victims of violence and our brothers and sisters with disabilities affected by the tragic incident that unfolded just hours before the event in San Bernardino, California.
USICD honored international disability rights advocate Kalle Könkkölä of Finland for outstanding service in advancing the rights, opportunities, and dignity of persons with disabilities, and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire with the Dole-Harkin award for distinction in public service to the global disability community. The gather community were thrilled to be joined that evening with Senators Robert J. Dole and Tom Harkin to bestow these honors.
USICD will announce our 2016 International Day Gala plans soon, and we hope you will join us this December.  In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures from the 2015 Gala!  
Key disability leaders in suits and other formal wear seated or standing around a cocktail table at USICD_s 2015 Annual Gala event
In celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the USICD Gala in Washington DC on December 2nd_ 2015_ from left to right_ Marca Bristo_ Kalle Konkkola_ Senator Kelly Ayotte_ Senator Tom Harkin_ Senator Bob Dole_ and Judith Heumann. Back row_ USICD President Dr. Patricia Morrissey_ USICD Treasurer Dr. David Hutt_ Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi of Finland_ U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalist USICD Board Member Candace Cable_ and USICD Executive Director David Morrissey.

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Highlights USICD
Christopher and Dana Reeve recently released a blog post by Candace Cable highlighting three organizations that are "bringing inclusion to life" for people with disabilities around the world. One of the highlighted organizations is USICD! The other two are Open Doors Organization and Global Mobility USA.
CNN Should Reexamine Support of Orphanages, Says Disability Rights International
Laurie Ahern, the president of USICD organizational member Disability Rights International, has published an editorial in the Huffington Post criticizing CNN for their decision to recognize people establishing orphanages as "heros".  Ahern points out that even the best orphanages, although often established by caring, well-intended people, are not adequately nurturing environments for growing children.  She argues that programs enabling more children to remain with their extended families would be a wiser investment.
Read the full editorial by Laurie Ahern
USICD Board Member Stephanie Ortoleva named one of Women's E-News 21 Leaders 2016
USICD Board Member Stephanie Ortoleva, President and Founder of Women Enabled International, has been named one of Women's E-News 21 Leaders 2016 for her advocacy work on behalf of women and girls with disabilities around the world.
Women's E-News wrote....

Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq.
By Eryn Mathewson
Stephanie Ortoleva jokes that she has never lost her vision because that would imply that she put it somewhere. She prefers to just describe the condition she has lived with since childhood as degenerative low vision.
This New York City native is not shy about the fact that she is blind. The prominent activist gives her age as somewhere between 18 and 80, though she says she acts like an 18-year-old most of the time. The purple streaks
in her hair are the proof.
Womens symbol with the letters WE in the circle in black on purple background Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq. is the founder and president of Women Enabled International, based in Washington, D.C. She and her staff work to advocate for the human rights of women and girls, especially those with disabilities. The team is developing projects that map and promote collaboration among women's rights and disability advocates, laying the groundwork for cross-cutting advocacy.  " . . . there are many wonderful women who are activists with disabilities, and I wish all of my sisters would get powerful attention."
Her organization's work "has grown and strengthened human rights law, holding states accountable for their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of women and girls with disabilities," Ortoleva said.
Fortunately, limited vision was not the only major development of Ortoleva's youth. It was around this time that the budding women's and disability rights activist was told that she was too opinionated and asked too many questions. Instead of interpreting these observations as insults, she saw them as good reasons to go to law school.
A degree from Hofstra University's progressive law school enabled her to become an international human rights lawyer. Her focus is on the intersectionality of women's rights, disability rights, gender-based violence and education for women and girls. Eventually, she consulted on these issues for governmental, non-governmental and international agencies, and she worked as a human rights lawyer with the U.S. State Department. She has led discussions at prominent forums like the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and she has critiqued these institutions on how well they accommodate participants with disabilities.
When she is not at the office, Ortoleva serves as a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights. She is also on the boards of several other disability rights and women's rights groups. In her spare time, Ortoleva hangs out with her husband of over 30 years and her orchids.
Ortoleva is credited with bringing attention and resources to women's and disability rights, but she emphatically reminds supporters that "there are many wonderful women who are activists with disabilities, and I wish all of my sisters would get powerful attention."

Stephanie will be honored at the Women's E-News award ceremony on May 2, 2016 in New York City -- see their website for event details
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In This Issue
New Year Message from USICD President
USICD Celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities with Gala!
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Highlights USICD
CNN Should Rexamine Support of Orphanages, Says Disability Rights International
Events and Opportunities
Disability Rights Researcher/Advocate, Human Rights Watch, New York location preferred, Apply by February 22, 2016

March 21st, 2016, is World Down Syndrome Day!

The UN Enable website has recently been re-designed! Visit at

How the Government Took 10 Years to Bring in a New Law: an article by Robbie Gilligan on disability rights in Ireland

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific releases a new publication, Strengthening Employment Prospects for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific

United Nations Habitat has released a new publication, The Right to Adequate Housing for Persons with Disabilities

For more international disability news, events, and opportunities, check USICD's Twitter FeedUSICD's Facebook page, or USICD's LinkedIn page!
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Board of Directors

Patricia Morrissey - President

John Wodatch- Vice President

David Hutt - Treasurer

Glen White - Secretary

Marca Bristo - Past President


Candace Cable

Jennifer Dexter

Daniel Fisher

Lex Frieden 

Jill Houghton

Axel Leblois

Barbara LeRoy

Janet Lord

Susan Mazrui

Jerry McCloskey

Faith McCormick

Sheila Newman

Stephanie Ortoleva

Susan Parker

Debra Perry

Neil Romano 

Eric Rosenthal

Diana Samarasan



Nonvoting Government Representatives

David Baquis (US Access Board)

Joan Durocher (NCD)

Meredith DeDonna (ODEP)

Marcie Roth (FEMA)

Sue Swenson (OSERS)

CRPD Ratification Watch
As of February 2016:
  • 161 Signatories
  • 160 Ratifications
Optional Protocol:
  • 92 Signatories
  • 88 Ratifications
Recent Ratifications:
Antigua and Barbuda ratified the convention on January 7, 2016

Sao Tome and Principe ratified the Convention on November 5, 2015

Democratic Republic of the Congo Ratified the Convention on September 30, 2015

Bahama Ratified the Convention on September 28, 2015
Gambia Ratified the Convention on July 7, 2015
Trinidad and Tobago Ratified the Convention on June 25, 2015
Madagascar Ratified the Convention on June 12, 2015
Kazakhstan Ratified the Convention on April 21, 2015 
Turkey Ratified the Convention on March 26, 2015
Marshall Islands Ratified the Convention on March 17, 2015
Vietnam Ratified the Convention on February 5, 2015
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