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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

CRPD Disability Treaty on the Move

By Alexa Wohlfort, Summer NCIL Policy Intern

First, a big thank you to all those who called their Senators, especially in the last few days! You made a difference that was felt. Thanks to all of your incredible support, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez called for a markup in order to hear and give the chance for Senate Committee members to approve amendments or changes to the treaty to make its meaning clearer (also called Reservations Understandings and Declarations – RUDS). Many Committee members emphasized that, as a leader and example in disability rights legislation, the fact that 147 countries have already ratified the treaty before the US discredits our reputation as a human rights leader among nations.

Alexa Wohlfort - NCIL Policy InternIssues brought up concerned the language of the CRPD and its intended meaning, and continue to revolve around the same main concerns. First, the Committee heard and voted on an amendment / RUD to clarify the treaty’s language on education to say that it expressly does not prohibit parental rights to home school children but only ensures that children with disabilities be afforded the same right to an accessible public education that children without disabilities have.

Other Senators debated strongly whether the treaty should expressly state that it is not meant to denigrate the authority of, or as was bantered about in the meeting yesterday, “diminish the sovereignty of” any country that ratifies it. However, the treaty is simply a document that establishes that the countries that ratify it believe that people with and without disabilities should have the same rights and access to goods and services as those without disabilities. It is not meant to be an avenue for the United Nations to take away anyone’s access to education or healthcare; to force unwanted procedures on people with disabilities; or to prevent someone from seeing a healthcare provider of their choice. The treaty simply states that the undersigned countries agree that persons with disabilities should have the same access to all aspects of healthcare as people who do not have disabilities. It should not be used as a vehicle to publicize and debate hot-button issues such as abortion rights and parental rights to make healthcare and educational decisions for their children.

Amid much debate, the treaty was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 12-6, which could result in a full vote by the Senate next week. The passage of CRPD at this time would be a great way to celebrate the 24th Anniversary of the ADA next week. Let’s take the treaty to the finish line. Contact your Senator. Tell them to stop the antics of unnecessary debate that is holding up passage of this important document and inhibiting this important step toward equitable rights for persons with disabilities across the world. We must unite to make ourselves heard. Tell your Senator to let the US remain a role model for disability rights and to ensure victory for the international disability community. “VOTE YES. Ratify CRPD NOW!”