UN Disabilities treaty should be a no-brainer

Posted on Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:43 am

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should not be controversial: It requires equal access for the disabled and bans discrimination against them in all countries that sign on. There is no question that the Senate should ratify it. The only issue is why it has any opponents at all.

Modeled after the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, the treaty has been ratified by 146 countries and the European Union, and has legions of supporters in the United States — veterans groups of different generations, business and civic leaders. It also has bi-partisan roots: The George W. Bush administration participated in drafting it, and President Obama signed it. Although there are a number of Republicans who oppose it, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) is an outspoken advocate, as is former Republican Sen. Majority Leader Bob Dole, who was disabled during his service in World War II. Now 91 and using a wheelchair, Dole recently made his second poignant trip to the Capitol to promote the treaty, urging former colleagues to vote for what he called “not a Republican or a Democrat treaty.”

In late 2012, many did vote to ratify it — 61 senators, in fact. But treaties need 67 votes, a two-thirds majority of the Senate. The treaty was opposed by 38 Republican senators, many of whom argued that it would undermine U.S. sovereignty and cede too much decision-making authority to the United Nations. Strong opposition also came from vocal advocates for home schooling who were alarmed by a passage in the treaty that they believe might override parents’ ability to make decisions about their own disabled children. In fact, the treaty does nothing of the sort.

The bottom line is that the treaty does not trump or alter U.S. laws or those of individual states. And if there is any lingering doubt of that among skeptics, the treaty’s backers in the Senate say they will add clarifying language as part of the ratification process to make sure there are no ambiguities. Senate ratification will bring U.S. influence and innovation to other countries that are in the process of expanding access and opportunity for the disabled. This treaty isn’t about parents losing authority over their kids or the U.S. losing sovereignty over its citizens. It’s about access for the disabled, and a world in which they can travel and thrive without facing discrimination. That’s something we all should want. The Senate should finally ratify this treaty.

-Los Angeles Times

Headlines of the Day