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After the U.S. Senate defeat of ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities I received several expressions of concern about the arguments made against it. I did some research, including interviewing David Morrissey (, and promised myself that I would write a blog when another ratification vote neared. That time has come.

A campaign of misinformation brought about the defeat of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the U.S. Senate last December. Likely, a motion to ratify it will be brought to the Senate Foreign Relations committee this June. Now is the time to begin contacting Senators to correct that misinformation so the next vote to ratify will be successful.

As an example of this misinformation, last November Joni and Friends (JAF) issued a statement that it “holds deep concerns regarding CRPD language on parental rights and the rights of the unborn with disabilities. We are also concerned how U.S. ratification of this treaty would impact U.S. sovereignty.” JAF gave no rationale for these concerns.

I have great respect for JAF and the work they do, but these errors need to be corrected. I’ll take them in order:

Parental Rights
Ratification of the CRPD would not change U.S. law but would confirm our commitment to disability rights and allow the U.S. to impact disability rights globally. No changes to U.S. laws covering parental rights would result from ratification. Children would still be allowed to be homeschooled. Parental discipline would still be guided by local laws. In fact, the treaty supports people with disabilities and their right to live in the community among family, and it protects parents and children from separation on the basis of disability. With the U.S. Federalist system of government, states are not under the order of an international body. The Federal government engages in international treaties, and parental rights are part of states' legal frameworks and fully protected by the ratification package.

Rights of the Unborn
I deplore the fact that many children are aborted including a disproportionate number of children with disabilities. The treaty would not change that for the better or worse. The CRPD states that people with disabilities should have the same access to health care as people without disabilities. It emphasizes non-discrimination on the basis of disability, with no change in law or policy.

U.S. Sovereignty
All human rights treaties passed by the U.S. Senate include RUD (Reservations, Understandings and Declarations), legally binding conditions added to treaties to protect U.S. sovereignty.  After the Obama administration pledged that they would pursue ratification, the treaty and domestic law were compared. Last May, this results of this investigation were sent from the White House to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U.S. sovereignty has not been affected by previous treaties ratified by the Senate. U.S. sovereignty would not be impacted by ratifying this treaty either. In fact, the U.S. is in compliance with this treaty already. The ratification package that the Senate had before them required no changes to U.S. law. That package even defined disability as ADA defines it. In a July hearing in the Senate a declaration was added declaring that the U.S. is already in compliance.

Sadly, the misinformation has obscured the benefits to ratification which include

Gives voice to the cry of people who are objects of discrimination. Typically, people with disabilities are the poorest and most oppressed in any community throughout the world. Their unemployment and poverty rates are the highest. People with disabilities across borders wrote the CRPD. For this reason, it has passionate support with most of the disability community. Not only that, over 500 organizations representing veterans and veterans with disabilities, civil rights groups, human rights groups, religious groups, even the national Chamber of Commerce, are among many others supporting the CRPD.

Gives U.S. citizens a seat at the table. The UN does not own the agreement, but the parties who ratify it own the agreement. If U.S. ratifies it, then the U.S. can have a seat at the table of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). They are not a law-making body, but make recommendations to countries regarding accessibility and implementation of the treaty. People who get seats are not government people, but regular citizens. With U.S. ratification, U.S. disability leaders can be at the UNCRPD table with international brothers and sisters.

Reengages the U.S. as a world leader in disability rights. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. was a pioneering country on disability rights, but the U.S. is falling behind. Passage of the CRPD would allow us to engage directly with many other countries that have already ratified it.

Provides additional protections for U.S. citizens with disabilities when traveling abroad. In many countries, accessibility and disability rights are far less than in the U.S. Ratifying the treaty will allow the U.S. to engage with other countries that have already ratified the CRPD to encourage them to stand by the treaty.

What can you do?
U.S. Representatives do not engage in international treaty ratification, only senators. Engage your senators, especially the 38 senators who voted against ratification in December - names listed below, by making calls, visiting your senators’ offices (either in the Senate or in their local offices), sending emails, and talking to the press in your state. You can find your Senators' contact information at Many senators are telling people that they have not decided yet about the CRPD. Continue to contact them until they make a decision.


Thanks, Mark, for this clear explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for your careful refutation of the misinformation spread when the Convention was considered for ratification previously.  You cite potent reasons for supporting ratification, the most important of which is that "people with disabilities are the poorest and most oppressed in any community throughout the world."  I hope fellow Christians will see this as a justice issue and advocate for ratification, especially in states where their senators voted against it the first time.


Were you aware that the link to the 38 senators on the "New Civil Rights Movement" includes very strong, negative language?  One example that really caught my eye was the final sentence "If there is a Hell, these 38 just earned some frequent flyer miles toward a long-term stay there."  Really?  Some of the people on that list are strong Christians!  When we engage in topics such as politics, you might be better served to provide links that simply lay out the facts of who voted which way, instead of using websites that are clearly biased.  Using those sources will not help promote your point that the treaty should be passed. 

Mark Stephenson on May 31, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

David, a link to a website is never intended as an endorsement of all that's on the site. I did not read all the way to the end of the article, but I should have said explicitly that I do not endorse all that was said about the senators on the site. As you see, I pulled the link and have included the list at the end of my article.


      I believe the reply I recieved from Senator Menendez of New Jersey supports your position and demonstrates again why we need to get UNCRPD passed. Thanks for your advocacy and concern for "all persons."

Dear Mr. Sheriff:

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).  Your opinion is very important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this important issue.

 As you know, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international Treaty that seeks to ensure that countries around the globe provide people with disabilities the same rights as everyone else in order to live full, satisfying, and productive lives.  The United States is already a world leader in this regard - having passed important legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 - and would not be required to pass any new legislation to meet its obligations under the Treaty.  Furthermore, the Convention would not impose any new costs on the United States.

 U.S. ratification of the UNCRPD would improve access for Americans with disabilities that live, work, or travel abroad, including disabled students and wounded veterans, and would help guarantee that these Americans receive the same rights abroad that they do at home.  Ratification would also promote the United States' continued global leadership on disability rights and enhance our ability to participate in substantive policy discussions in international fora to affect the elimination of disability discrimination worldwide.

 The United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities entered into force in December 2006 and the United States signed the treaty in 2009.  On May 17, 2012, the Obama Administration transmitted the treaty package for Senate consideration following a three year inter-agency review.  I proudly voted in favor of ratifying the Convention on December 4, 2012; however, the Senate was unable to garner the necessary two-thirds majority required for advice and consent to ratification of the treaty.  Rest assured that I will continue to advocate for disability rights and for U.S. ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.

I appreciate you taking the time to express your opinion on this important issue, and please be assured that I will keep your views in mind.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of more assistance.  I invite you to visit my website ( to learn more about how I am standing up for New Jersey families in the United States Senate.  


Mark Stephenson on June 7, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Michael, thanks for making contact with your senator and for sharing the letter he returned to you. I'm hoping that as more people assert the facts about the meaning of ratification of the treaty the errors about the dangers of ratification will be corrected.

Here are specific ideas from the Unites States International Council on Disabilities to advocate for the CRPD:

1. Write to your local papers!

Check out these recent Op-Ed's that support of the CRPD. Share your own voice-- we are happy to support you in this process!

2. Call your Senators to let them know that you support the CRPD!

  • Call Senators Corker (202) 224-6797 and Menendez (202) 224-4651 and simply tell them to hold hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Contact YOUR two U.S. Senators and ask them to support the disability treaty! Find their information HERE.

3. Visit your local Senate offices! Get a group together and go let them know about the ADA Anniversary and your support of the CRPD!

4. TWEET in support of the Disability Treaty! #ISUPPORTCRPD

For more info about CRPD visit


More resources on the CRPD:

Online Resources:

·         (Web Page): The Disabilities Treaty: Opening the World to Americans with Disabilities

·         (Video) The Disabilities Treaty: It's Time For Action ( Link with Full Text & Closed Captioning) (YouTube) Secretary Kerry (Aug. 9): "The Disabilities Treaty is an international agreement that will help protect the rights of Americans with disabilities when they live, work, travel, or study overseas." 

·         (One-Pager): (Downloadable PDF – glossy! 508 compliant!)

·         (Social Media) Follow the Special Advisor on Twitter: @IntDisability and on Facebook:


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