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UN disability rights treaty rejected by Senate

Published on December 7th, 2012

Bad news came to disabled people around the world when the United Nations-sponsored treaty for disabled-people’s rights failed in the Senate this month.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was negotiated by President George W. Bush and was signed by President Barack Obama back in 2009. It was voted on Dec. 4 and failed by a 61-38 vote. The White House issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” that the treaty did not pass.

Signed by 155 nations and ratified by another 126, the treaty was modeled after the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its supporters said it would require no change to existing U.S. laws but would “work to ensure that disabled people enjoy the same rights and freedoms as other citizens.” Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) said the treaty “really wasn’t controversial” because all it said was that people with disabilities should not be discriminated against.

Opponents of the treaty nonetheless feared it would bring extra regulation. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) also said he was not comfortable adopting a treaty sponsored by a “potentially overzealous international organization with anti-American biases.”

The treaty was championed by former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), among others. Both Dole and McCain are wounded veterans who live with disabilities; Dole uses a wheelchair and McCain cannot raise his arms above shoulder height because of injuries he sustained in Vietnam.

Although “disability” is defined differently by different people, the United Nations estimates that about 650 million people, or about 10 percent of the world’s population, have a disability.

Source: BBC, “US Senate rejects UN disability rights treaty,” Dec. 4, 2012

For your reference, a full copy of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can be found here.

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