US signs UN disability rights treaty

US signs UN disability rights treaty

[JURIST] US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice [official profile] on Thursday signed [press release] the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [official website; JURIST news archive]. The move came after US President Barack Obama announced [JURIST report] last week during a celebration commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 [DOJ materials] that the US would sign the convention. The announcement was met with widespread approval [HRW news release; IDRM press release] by international and human rights organizations, as the Bush administration declined to sign the convention [JURIST report] at the time it was adopted, citing what it characterized as sufficient protective laws already in effect in the country. At the signing ceremony at UN headquarters, Rice said:

This Treaty, as you all know, is the first new human rights convention of the 21st century adopted by the United Nations and further advances the human rights of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide. It urges equal protection and equal benefits under the law for all citizens, it rejects discrimination in all its forms, and calls for the full participation and inclusion in society of all persons with disabilities. …

We all still have a great deal more to do at home and abroad. As President Obama has noted, people with disabilities far too often lack the choice to live in communities of their own choosing; their unemployment rate is much higher than those without disabilities; they are much more likely to live in poverty; health care is out of reach for far too many; and too many children with disabilities are denied a world-class education around the world. Discrimination against people with disabilities is not simply unjust; it hinders economic development, limits democracy, and erodes societies.

The convention must now be ratified [Senate materials] by a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities entered into force [JURIST report] in May 2008, and has been signed by 142 members and ratified by 62. The landmark treaty protects the 650 million persons living with disabilities worldwide [UN fact sheet] and holds that all disabled people should be treated as full-fledged citizens and completely integrated into society. The treaty also includes an Optional Protocol [text] granting individuals the right to petition a committee of experts for violations of the Convention after all national procedures have been exhausted.