On December 4, 2012, the United States Senate failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls for respect and services for people with special needs internationally. Local advocates and families for people with disabilities have the opportunity to review the treaty and communicate their views to New York Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, both of whom voted for ratification as it is likely to come to a vote again in 2013.
The Republican position that they would not ratify any treaties in the lame duck session is one of the reasons for its failure to pass. Moving past that, the agreement with and opposition to the treaty is generally determined how you define the role of the United Nations, and who the people with disabilities are.
One area of controversy is Article 18, Paragraph 2 stating “Children with disabilities shall be registered immediately after birth” which is an unsettling mandate to some advocates of people with disabilities and their families. Frequently families find the labeling of their child offensive, and this mandate does not take into consideration that health care professionals sometimes cannot identify disabilities and debilitating conditions until long after birth. Others find registering citizens for anything other than the right to vote, a symptom of government interference.
The disparity between the proponents and opponents can be seen in the diverse population that the UN is trying to cover. The discrimination the wounded veteran or spinal cord injured person sees is much different than the parents of the child who is unable to talk or to meet his or her basic daily needs without assistance. The treaty offends some parents who take responsibility to meet the basic needs of their child but the veteran or competent but challenged adult sees it as protection.
Opponents cite the weakening of parental rights, strengthening the rights of government and the involvement of the international community into the affairs of the United States. Proponents believe it is an international step forward securing the rights of people with disabilities.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) already safeguards the rights of people with disabilities in the United States and was a guide to the development of the controversial treaty. Within our own country, state, county and town, compliance with the ADA continues to be a work in progress. Practically speaking, countries struggling to feed their people have core needs to address for its overall population as well as the subsections within it. As far as how seriously the treaty is taken, Syria has signed and ratified the agreement as well as the Sudan, both of which have questionable respect for people with or without disabilities.
In 2013, members of the Senate are planning to bring to a vote the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the time for advocates, self-advocates and persons with special needs to look at the treaty and decide to support or not support its passage.
If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Pat Wright.