By Kat Taylor, Disability Rights Program Manager

The purpose of the present Convention is 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.

-The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

To date, 139 nations have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, the CRPD is a landmark international human rights treaty that protects and promotes the rights of people with disabilities around the world.   Although President Obama signed the treaty in 2009, embarrassingly, the U.S. Senate has failed to ratify the CRPD.

Ratifying the CRPD would allow the US to remain a leader in protecting the rights of people with disabilities, and would recognize the important need for this treaty internationally.  In many countries, human rights abuses are rampant.  In Ghana, for example, people who seek treatment for a mental illness at a psychiatric hospital are chained to trees and sometimes even denied water as part of the “healing” process. In some hospitals in Mexico, patients are left naked lying on concrete floors, and are tied to benches that prevent them from even going to the bathroom. People in wheelchairs are denied the most basic care and are left in their own waste.  In the United States, people with disabilities are regularly subject to harassment and mistreatment. For example, last fall, several neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon, were littered with hate letters and flyers that sought to publicly identify people with disabilities receiving any type of public benefit, and suggested that the ability of these people to vote and participate in democracy would be the end of the nation.

Acknowledging equal access for people with disabilities as a human right promotes the agency of people with disabilities by creating a legal framework for governments to include them in decision making.  Ratifying the Convention will bring multiple parties to the table to share expertise on how to achieve full equality for the one billion people with disabilities worldwide. The road to full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life, across the globe will undoubtedly take time but is an important priority for all of society. Removing persistent attitudinal barriers is the greatest challenge to the realization of full inclusion. By the United States formally recognizing the CRPD’s importance through ratification, the world would get one step closer to being a truly equal place for all.


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