November 27th, 2012

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UN Treaty on Rights of Persons With Disabilities Back on Senate’s Plate


More than 1,200 delegates from 85 countries are in India currently, attending a three-day conference exploring the role community-based rehabilitation can play in helping make life matter more for people with disabilities.

A dispatch yesterday from the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) said the opening remarks from India’s secretary of disability affairs in the ministry of social justice and empowerment, Stuti Kacker, indicated the intention behind “the first World Congress on community-based rehabilitation for the disabled” was to “help expedite the realisation of the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities” through an inclusive approach to employment and education of these individuals on a global scale.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a United Nations measure that promotes, protects, and ensures “the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.” Wikipedia’s entry says the text was adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 and has since been signed by 154 UN members.

But while the United States is one of the signatories, the CRPD is not binding here until it is voted upon by the Senate. Throughout the summer, Michelle Diament of Disability Scoop tracked efforts by the Obama administration and advocates for people with disabilities to push for ratification of the CRPD, hoping its passage could coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law. But Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and other Republican lawmakers put a hold on the vote amid concerns that approving the CRPD would “sign away our sovereignty,” Diament reported.

Lawmakers have put ratification of the CRPD back on the Senate floor this week, and lobbyists both in favor of and against the United Nations instrument have been busy making their case. The Home School Legal Defense Association was one of the more vocal opponents back in July, and it has again remounted its campaign to “Reject the UNCRPD” with a November 19 letter from Director of Federal Relations, William A. Estrada, Esq.

“This treaty surrenders U.S. sovereignty to unelected UN bureaucrats and will threaten the parental rights and homeschool freedom of parents of children with disabilities” is a portion of the text provided in Estrada’s message constituents can use to urge their Senators to put off voting until the new congressional session convenes in January, 2013.

On Sunday, The Columbus Dispatch published an op-ed from Cincinnati-based writer and advocate for people with disabilities, Deborah Kendrick, that favors passing the CRPD. Kendrick says the United States has been in a position of global leadership on equal access for people with disabilities to education, employment, transportation, and entertainment since the ADA was passed in 1990, and the CRPD is the next step in this evolution of inclusiveness for these individuals in several ways:

American children and adults with disabilities who travel to other countries to study, work or enjoy themselves have no guarantee of similar protection against discrimination when they leave the United States… In addition to nondiscrimination, the convention defends the rights of people with disabilities for full and effective participation in society, respect for the diversity and human rights of people with disabilities and equal opportunity.

Do you think the U.S. should adopt the CRPD and play a more active role in conferences like the one taking place in India? Or do you agree that its adoption means America would relinquish its control over how to best provide for people with disabilities? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Image by dbking.

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