Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate did not ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The point of the treaty was to call other nations to do what the U.S. is already doing in the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which we augmented and strengthened under President George W. Bush in 2008.
Many senators, Republican and Democrat, were in favor of passage including John McCain. Even the respected former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole rolled into the senate chamber in his wheelchair to urge the senators to vote for passage. Sadly, the bipartisan group of 61 favorable votes did not meet the 2/3 majority needed. Among no votes, Kansas senator Jerry Moran co-sponsored the bill then actually voted against it.
Many people opposed the treaty. I read an article from a homeschool association that asserted among other things that ratifying the disability treaty would cede control of the number of accessible parking spaces at schools and churches to the UN. Others assert that the treaty would impinge on U.S. sovereignity in a variety of other ways as well. Yet the treaty is not self-executing, that is, it does not change US law nor does it have any means of enforcement. In an interview about the treaty with Senator Mike Lee, Anderson Cooper said that the U.S. Supreme court has stated that such a treaty creates no obligations that could be enforced in U.S. federal courts.
I feel sad that my country, which has been a leader in legislation that positively affects the lives of people with disabilities, would turn down ratification. As far as I understand, the purpose of this treaty is to encourage other countries to raise their standards to the level already in US law. This could benefit Americans (and anyone else) with a disability as they traveled to other countries by encouraging other countries to create greater accessibility.
About the defeat Steve Colbert quipped, “The Senate is outfitted with accessibility measures that allowed the wheelchair-bound Dole to see his dying wish crushed in person.”
If your senator was one of those that voted against the treaty, I encourage you to contact him and urge him to reconsider.
Are you disappointed that this treaty was not passed in the U.S. Senate?