Washington, D.C., Tuesday, July 22 — This morning the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities passed out of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a vote of 12-6. Next it must be ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. The CRPD, or, Disability Treaty, is designed to promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities worldwide and enjoys the support of a broad coalition ranging from disability rights organizations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“It is time to ratify the Disability Treaty,” said Marca Bristo, President, U.S. International Council on Disabilities, upon hearing the treaty passed out of committee. “Failure by our senators to ratify this treaty would be a betrayal of the American disability community, who, as recent polling tells us, vote in higher numbers than almost any other group. It is a betrayal that will not be forgotten by these millions of voters, and by our allies in the veterans, business, faith, and civil rights communities who are united in support of the treaty.”
In 2012 the Disability Treaty was considered noncontroversial and was expected to easily be ratified by the U.S. Senate, but then it became the target of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which claimed the treaty would supersede U.S. law. “Since a treaty is an international obligation, international law fully controls the substantive law concerning the nature of our obligations,” testified Michael Farris, of the Home School Legal Defense Association, in 2012. Anti-abortion groups, convinced that the treaty would somehow promote abortion, joined with the home schooling association to rally against the CRPD.
Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole, a major supporter of the CRPD, watched in dismay as the measure fell five votes short. Dole, former majority leader of the Senate, had come out of retirement in order to witness the U.S. Senate ratifying the treaty.
Dole, a disabled vet injured during World War II, remains a key supporter of the Disability Treaty and last year wrote this to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “U.S. ratification of the CRPD will increase the ability of the United States to improve physical, technological and communication access in other countries, thereby helping to ensure that Americans — particularly, many thousands of disabled American veterans — have equal opportunities to live, work, and travel abroad. In addition, the treaty comes at no net cost to the United States. In fact, it will create a new global market for accessibility goods. An active U.S. presence in implementation of global disability rights will promote the market for devices such as wheelchairs, smart phones, and other new technologies engineered, made, and sold by U.S. corporations.”
The Disability Treaty is welcomed by many business groups as it is expected to help boost our nation’s economy. “There are plenty of reasons to support the Disability Treaty — the most obvious and important one being that it’s the right thing to do for people across the globe who are living and working with disabilities,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “But there are economic and competitiveness benefits for the United States as well. It would create a level playing field for American businesses, leverage the leadership and innovation of American business in setting accessibility standards, and make us more able to do business abroad. Further, the treaty does not impose new requirements on U.S. employers and entities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”