Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Equality is Never Trivial or a Waste

This week, the Senate debates the U.N. Treaty, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It's not only a proclamation that people with disabilities across the globe deserve equality, but is also a vehicle to hopefully ensure that other Countries give equal rights to people with disabilities. It was modeled after the U.S.'s own Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), an international model for disability rights.

A small minority of Senators are holding back U.S. ratification, claiming that it would take away U.S. sovereignty and parents rights in America. But most experts agree it wouldn't affect U.S. sovereignty and the vast majority of disability advocates champion it, here and internationally.

In fact, over 100 other countries have already ratified it.  CRPD doesn't require anything of the U.S. above and beyond what the ADA already does. Former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray and former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, a parent of a child with a disability, have confirmed that no changes in U.S. law will be required to comply with the treaty.

So why is it so important that we ratify it? Ratification will allow the U.S. to "contribute formally its leadership and expertise on disability issues to rest of the world.” It is a powerful symbol that the U.S. values equality and human rights.

As I type this, the Senate will vote on CRPD. Many people have mentioned that while the "fiscal cliff" of sequestration looms, this is a waste of valuable legislative time. I would argue that equality is never a waste of time or resources. This, in fact, is why I believe the United States is the greatest country in the world. What if in the late 80s and early 90s, we said, "the ADA isn't as important as the national debt, let's put it aside for now." And the Civil Rights movement? Women's Suffrage?

I hope that the Senate does the right thing and votes to ratify international disability rights so that they can move on to other (but not more) important pressing matters.

Keith Hosey
Associate Director
Center for Accessible Living

Update: CRPD did not get the 2/3 votes in the Senate to be ratified by the United States of America.