Civil and human rights groups, disabled veterans and people with disabilities gathered on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Thursday, urging Congress to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), known as the Disability Treaty.
The Disability Treaty ensures that people with disabilities around the world enjoy the fundamental freedoms expressed by people without disabilities and are active participants in decision-making efforts that affect them – such as the drafting and enactment of legislation. It connects disability rights with human rights and ensures accountability when those rights are violated.
According to the most recent U.S. Census data, more than 57 million Americans live with one or more disabilities. More than 17 percent of people aged 17 to 64 have disabilities, and disabilities affect 50 percent of adults older than 65.
The United Nations adopted the Disability Treaty in 2006 and it went into force during 2008. In 2009, the United States became a signatory to the Treaty, merely asserting its intention to become a party to the Convention. However, the United States has never ratified – or formally confirmed – the Treaty and has no legal obligations under its protocols.
In December 2012, the United States Senate took up the issue of the Treaty’s ratification, but the measure failed.
“We were calling this Treaty — explained Senator Dick Durbin — so the United States could stand up proudly and say we are prepared to stand with the world and lead the world when it comes to disability rights, and the rug was pulled out from under us.”
Senator Durbin recalled that former Senator Bob Dole championed the Americans with Disabilities Act and supported ratification of the Treaty. Despite Dole’s support, Republicans overwhelmingly rejected ratification on a vote of 61-38.
Senators John McCain, Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe, were among the few Republicans to support the measure.
“Bob Dole celebrated his 90th birthday this week,” continued Durbin. “We’re going to give Bob Dole a 90th birthday present; we’re going to pass this Convention,” he said to applause and cheers.
Those gathered on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol came to tell their stories and put pressure on the Senate to ratify the Disability Treaty. Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, reminded them that their voices count.
“Your presence here today, Henderson told the group, is to remind the Senate that it owes a duty to all Americans to protect their civil and human rights and to make sure the world at large is friendly to the interests that we share in common.
“We want the ratification of the CRPD, said Henderson. We demand the ratification of the CRPD … If you want to have the rights and respect that all Americans have, then join us in lifting your voices and our voices in support of CRPD.”
Correction: This article has been modified to correct an editing and typographical error.