We the undersigned are calling on the United States Congress to Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which values independence, respect, and the vital concept of reasonable accommodation, was the model for the CRPD and those values are reflected in the CRPD treaty. The U.S. Senate failed to ratify the treaty last December by just a few votes but the treaty will be considered again soon.
The Convention is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century; and the President of the United States signed the treaty on July 30, 2009 and it is now necessary to ratify the treaty.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a landmark treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on December 13 2006, to promote and protect the rights of the world's 650 million Disabled people.
The Convention will require ratifying nations "to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity" and promote awareness of the capabilities of those who have disabilities.
Historically, persons with disabilities have been marginalized, stigmatized, and deprived of opportunities and freedoms afforded to individuals without disabilities; and the Convention also requires governments to fight stereotypes of people with disabilities.
The Convention also recognizes that attitudes need to change if disabled people are to achieve equality.
As of September 2013, the CRPD has 158 signatories and 137 ratifying parties worldwide, including the European Union.
The U.S. federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, was the model for the United Nations treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires participating countries to provide equal access for the disabled. The United States has not yet ratified the CRPD and the Senate fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty. The CRPD ratification was blocked by GOP senators who read into its broad language, variously, a potential ban on home schooling, a right to abortion and other mandates they said might threaten U.S. sovereignty. Misinformation about these issues abound, but the truth is that the treaty does not even go as far as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is already the law of this land.
Unfortunately 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.
So to clarify a few of the issues raised:
What is a human rights convention? A convention, or treaty, is a legally binding document between 2 or more countries. A human rights convention is a treaty that deals specifically with human rights. The International convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is a “thematic treaty”, meaning that it defines the human rights of a particular demographic (in this case, the human rights of people with disabilities).
Is "signing" a convention the same thing as "ratifying" it? No. A country that signs the Convention becomes a signatory, and a country that ratifies the convention becomes a States Party. Becoming a signatory qualifies the state (nation) to proceed toward ratification, and establishes an obligation to refrain from any acts that violate the principles of the Convention. Becoming a states party (ratifying nation) means that the country agrees to be legally bound by the treaty. If a nation both signs and ratifies at the same time, it is said to "ascend".
What happens if a country decides not to sign or ratify a convention? First, a convention must be "adopted," which means it becomes open for countries to sign. It is then up to each country to decide whether it chooses to sign or ratify the convention. Like most conventions, the CRPD requires that at least 20 countries ratify it before it can "enter into force." To "enter into force" means a treaty becomes active, and the ratifying countries are required to implement it.
Once the Convention becomes international law, the core concept of equal rights for people with disability will become the norm. As has occurred with other treaties, this new recognition of basic human rights will begin to be incorporated into the national laws of nations which don’t ratify the Convention. This will benefit people with disabilities who live in those nations, and may spur additional nations to opt for ratification in the coming years as their laws begin to include the rights guaranteed under the Convention.
Will ratification of the CRPD affect 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 considerable investigative study into the effect of treaty ratification, the Obama administration's investigation results concluded that 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 and thus ratification by the Senate required no changes to U.S. law. That package even defined disability as ADA defines it. 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. Ratifying the CRPD gives a country the right to send representatives to high-level meetings among countries in which people discuss the best practices for CRPD implementation. These meetings are a critical vehicle for disseminating ideas and influencing other countries to consider ways to improve their practices in defending the rights of people with disabilities. But because the United States has only signed, and not yet ratified, the CRPD, we in the US have effectively excluded ourselves from that conversation. In order to increase our influence, the U.S.A. needs to ratify the CRPD in order join these high-level conversations. Ratification of the CRPD 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.
Will it affect Parental Rights? There would be no change in U.S. law if the CRPD would be ratified, instead ratification would confirm our commitment to disability rights. The right of patents to home school their own children would not be impacted. The CRPD supports the right of persons with disabilities to live integrated into their community and protects parents and children from separation based on disability.
What does the CRPD say about Rights of the Unborn? The CRPD states that access to health care for persons with disabiities should be the same as persons without disabilities and the treaty emphasizes non-discrimination based on disability.
What rights does the CRPD cover?
The right to legal capacity (to make one’s own decisions)
The right to liberty
The right to live in the community
The right to respect for physical & mental integrity
The right to freedom from torture, violent exploitation and abuse
The right to healthcare and to free and informed consent in health services
The right to education
The right to vote and to participate in public & cultural life
The right to work, and to an adequate standard of living
The right to privacy
The right to habilitation & rehabilitation
The right to receive information in accessible formats
The right to marry and to divorce, and to share equally in child custody
The right to procreate, & the right to obtain contraception
The right to sign contracts, and own and inherit property
The right to accessible public transit and public accommodations
The UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), has been ratified by more than 100 countries. The U.S.A. has shown inspired leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The CRPD provides a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities.
We as advocates support the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
We will actively pursue a commitment from the United States to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and recommit ourselves as a country to human rights, empowerment and independent living for all people with disabilities of the world.