On December 4, the U.S. Senate failed by five votes to reach the two thirds majority needed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The final vote count was 61-38. Though the treaty earned bipartisan support, Republican Senators cast all 38 votes against the treaty. “We are extremely let down and disappointed by the Senators who failed to support the rights of people with disabilities both in the United States and abroad,” said Marca Bristo, Board Chair of the US International Council on Disabilities and President & CEO of Access Living.
Flanked by treaty supporters, Senator John Kerry in Washington, DC speaking in support of international disability rights
A coalition of 300 disability organizations, 21 veteran organizations, and 30 faith groups organized to build support for the treaty. The treaty earned endorsements from Former President George HW Bush, former Senator Bob Dole, and current Republican Senators such as John McCain and Richard Lugar. “In 1990, Democratic and Republican Senators worked together to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Bristo said. “This treaty was the perfect opportunity for the Senate to elevate the principles of the ADA to a world stage.” If ratified, the treaty would have extended U.S. protections to Americans traveling and working abroad. Also, the United States would have earned a seat on the UN Committee on Disabilities. Because the Senate failed to ratify the treaty, Bristo said, “The United States will have to sit on the sidelines. Our best practices and many years of experience won’t be implemented.”
Disability leaders will continue to advocate for disability rights worldwide. They expect to reintroduce the treaty to the US Senate in 2013. “It was people with disabilities who wrote the treaty,” Bristo said. “And it was people with disabilities who built support for the treaty. We will not stop until people with disabilities here in the US and abroad have equal rights and protections.”