WASHINGTON — Speaking today on behalf of his "fellow broken people," Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012, urged the Senate to ratify a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled.
Kirk, who is retired from the Navy Reserve, said he undergoes rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and sees veterans working to become "victors instead of victims."
He said in one room there are patients who are collectively missing "about 20 arms and legs," but cannot be held back. "Go man, go," he said.
He appeared with Steve Baskis, 27, of Normal, Ill., who lost his sight while serving in the Army in Iraq in 2008. A Paralympian and mountain climber, Baskis once said it is "more difficult to navigate through airport security in some foreign countries than it is to climb a mountain," according to Lance Trover, Kirk's spokesman.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who lost both her legs during the Iraq war when her military helicopter was shot down in 2004, also endorsed the treaty before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Duckworth said international travel poses obstacles for the 5.5 million veterans with disabilities in the U.S. She cited blinded veterans who had their guide sticks, mistaken as weapons, taken away and amputees who were told to store their prostheses in overhead bins.
In many countries, she said, the disabled are hidden, considered an embarrassment and not afforded the accommodations they need to live productive lives.
Both lawmakers were introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who sits on the panel. He said a high point was seeing Kirk climb the steps of the Capitol to return last Jan. 3 and noted that Duckworth, elected to Congress a year ago, is about to mark her ninth "alive day," when she survived her helicopter being hit.
The treaty, known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has been ratified by 138 countries, said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the panel.
A 61-38 vote in the Senate last December fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. Opponents raised questions about U.S. sovereignty and other issues.