US Senate Votes Against Disability Rights

In a disappointing vote today, the US Senate failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Seen as a basic human rights treaty by the 126 nations that have already ratified it – including Iran, Syria and China – this international treaty works to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.

This treaty guarantees people with disabilities basic human rights such as inclusion and non-discrimination, so they will have access to schools, health care, employment and the legal system. You would think that a nation that has had access laws on the books for over 22 years could get behind this idea, wouldn’t you?

Well to be fair it did have wide bipartisan support, with 61 Senators voting in favor of it; however it fell short of the two-thirds majority required for treaty ratification. Democrats and some Republicans were in strong support of the treaty. Bob Dole, who lobbied for the passage of the treaty, even showed up in the Senate chamber in his wheelchair, to observe the vote.

So what the heck went wrong? Why can’t one of the most accessible nations in the world pass this seemingly simple human rights treaty?

Well the trouble started when Rick Santorum – who has a developmentally disabled child — rallied conservative Republicans and encouraged them to vote against the treaty. He argued that the treaty could relinquish sovereignty and the UN would prohibit parents from home schooling their disabled children.

And unfortunately they bought it.

I break it down to a simple inability to understand the English language.

The treaty says that disabled children can go to public schools, not that they must go to public schools. Big difference.

Ah yes, the conspiracy theory lives on. Sad but true.

And you have to wonder what other nations think of us as a country. We claim to have civil rights, yet we won’t even sign this very basic treaty.

I can only hope that our elected officials will come to their senses one day; but unfortunately today is not that day.

It’s a very sad state of affairs indeed.