September 28, 2013

Another View: U.N. treaty on the disabled should be accepted by Senate

The agreement has bipartisan support, and not ratifying it will send the wrong message.

Los Angeles Times

Having a physical disability profoundly disconnects a person from the world in which the able-bodied live and move, and makes a challenge out of numerous mundane tasks. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed more than two decades ago, prohibits many forms of discrimination against the disabled and mandates that they be provided with equal access to buildings, workplaces, programs, services and public accommodations.

The federal law was the model for the United Nations treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires participating countries to provide equal access for the disabled.

To date, 133 countries and the European Union have ratified it. Yet astonishingly, the United States is not among them.

Last December, the Senate fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty, blocked by Republican senators who read into its broad language, variously, a potential ban on home schooling, a right to abortion and other mandates that they said might threaten U.S. sovereignty.

These contentions are inaccurate. In general, the treaty does not even go as far as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is already the law of this land. Failure to ratify this treaty sends a signal that the rights of the disabled are not crucially important.

The Foreign Relations Committee is expected to consider the treaty again this year. It should send it on to the Senate floor, where it deserves approval.


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