Senate Fails to Lead on UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Twenty-two years ago, the United States demonstrated true leadership when Congress passed and President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Yesterday, the U.S. Senate had the chance to show greatness again by voting yes on the resolution to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The CRPD is a treaty between nations to ensure that people with disabilities are treated the same way as other people.  The Americans with Disabilities Act that became law in 1990 ensures that Americans with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as others.  Other nations have not done this for their citizens, and the CRPD was a way to urge them to follow America’s lead.  When that happens, Americans with disabilities who travel, live, or work abroad would have access to the same accommodations that they have at home.

When two respected U.S. Senators, both former presidential nominees, one a Republican, one a Democrat, decide to work together for the common good, one would expect that work to succeed.  Instead, the lead champions, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), saw the CRPD resolution fail to garner a two-thirds majority in the Senate.  The vote fell five votes short.

Opposition to the treaty, led by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), focused on telling parents of children with disabilities that the treaty would harm parental rights; this is not true.

The CRPD actually protects children from being separated from their parents on the basis of disability in Article 23.  Nothing in the treaty changes U.S. sovereignty or U.S. laws or the U.S. budget.  It was simply a way for the United States to be a world leader on disability rights.

Best Buddies joined with over 300 other disability groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bar Association and many, many other groups of all political stripes in supporting ratification.  Former President George W. Bush negotiated the treaty, and 126 other nations have ratified it. Yesterday, the U.S. declined to join them.  Please call your Senators to either thank them for voting yes, or express your disappointment that they voted no.

Here is a link to the roll-call vote:

Download two additional fact sheets on the CRPD:

Best Buddies, united with other disability groups, will continue urging passage.  As Marca Bristo, President of the United States International Council on Disabilities said, “This campaign for ratification brought together a powerful coalition of over 300 disability and 21 veteran organizations, only to have 38 senators tell us that our rights, protections, and dignity are not important to them. We will forge newer, bigger, more vigorous alliances. We will redouble our efforts. This vote against me and my community is one you will not soon forget.”

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About Lisa Derx

Vice President, Government Relations, Best Buddies International

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