The U.S. Senate is gearing up to reconsider an international disability rights treaty that was rejected by the body on its first go-around last year.
The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to take up the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at a hearing this coming Tuesday. It will mark the first time that lawmakers will consider ratifying the treaty since it was defeated in a vote last December that fell largely across party lines.
The convention calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities worldwide.
Ahead of the hearing, Vice President Joe Biden rallied supporters Friday, meeting with a group of disability advocates at The White House to discuss the administration’s backing of the treaty.
Meanwhile, disability advocacy groups are urging their members to attend Tuesday’s hearing and to lobby members of the Senate committee. A broad coalition of over 700 disability, civil rights, faith, business and veterans organizations favor ratification.
The path forward, however, is anything but certain.At USA Today, Senators John McCain and Robert Menendez write:
Assuring basic human rights for the disabled around the world is vitally important to the American people. Nearly 58 million Americans live with a disability, including 5.5 million military veterans. Global accessibility standards — which would be encouraged by the disabilities treaty — are essential for veterans to safely travel, study and work abroad. That is why the most respected veterans organizations in America — including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Wounded Warrior Project — support the treaty's ratification. Indeed, the foremost champion of this treaty is former senator Bob Dole, who was seriously wounded fighting fascism in the mountains of Italy during World War II and went on to become among the nation's greatest advocates for people with disabilities.
Worldwide, a billion people live with a disability, 80% of whom are in the developing world. In too many places, those with disabilities are housed in institutions separate from their families, without access to the outside world. In some countries, the disabled are denied the most basic rights such as a birth certificate or a name.