When it comes to rights of the disabled, the United States has been at the forefront. With the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, passed more than 20 years ago now, this nation has proudly ensured more equitable and dignified treatment of 57 million Americans — including many residents here in Queens County.
But a notable blemish remains on our record: The United States has failed to step up to the plate as a true global leader on the issue, and help ensure the rights of disabled Americans as they work and travel overseas. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a treaty that enshrines the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities the world over.
Right now, we have a chance to make it right. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is debating the treaty again right now. And it’s up to every senator, including our own Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, to make sure it gets to the floor — and passes. In December 2012, the last time the Senate voted on this treaty, it failed to reach the required two-thirds majority by five votes — Yeas 61, Nays 38.
The Disabilities Treaty calls upon countries to ensure equal treatment and equal access to justice, healthcare, education, and employment for all persons with disabilities. This convention sets a standard, one that resembles our own standards here in the U.S., worldwide to create legislation or improve upon current laws.
The treaty is a common-sense document, yet the U.S. is in a minority of nations which have not ratified the treaty, keeping company with countries like North Korea, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, many of our key allies — like the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Italy and South Korea — are among the 147 other nations who have already formally joined the CPRD.
The Senate should support the equality of people with disabilities worldwide by giving its consent to this treaty.