Senate Rejects United Nations Disability Treaty

Federal News

Despite support from many disability groups, the U.S. Senate rejected an international disability rights treaty in December 2012. Supporters were unable to secure the two-thirds vote needed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities across the world.

United Nations emblem

Ratifying the treaty would not require any change to United States law, but it would have helped ensure that Americans with disabilities would have the same protections abroad as they do here, said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

While the U.S. signed the disability rights convention in 2009, Senate approval was needed to make participation official. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he plans to bring the treaty up for a vote again in the next Congress that recently convened. As of December 2012, the treaty was signed by 155 countries, including 126 that ratified it.

Promoting Independent Living

One section of the treaty, Article 19, explains that countries that sign the treaty recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with equal choices, and that they shall work to ensure full inclusion and participation in the community. This includes guaranteeing people with disabilities the right to choose their place of residence and with whom they will live, and have access to a range of community support services and the personal assistance necessary to live independently.

Viewpoints For and Against

Ratifying the treaty would not require any change to United States law, but it would have helped ensure that Americans with disabilities would have the same protections abroad as they do here, said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). The National Federation of the Blind said that “Ratification of the CRPD would solidify the United States as a global leader on disability rights, and protect Americans with disabilities that travel, work, study, or serve abroad.”

Opponents said the treaty would compromise the United State’s sovereignty or right to self-govern and threaten the ability of parents to determine what’s best for their children. They also said signers would be accountable to upholding the treaty by the international community.

For More Information