11/30/2012 10:04 am ET Updated Jan 30, 2013

A Global Fair Deal for the Disabled

The Senate is on the verge of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This would be amazing! The Senate has not been able to push through a multilateral treaty since the Chemical Weapons convention in 1997.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that current U.S. laws protecting the disabled are the "gold standard" for such initiatives worldwide. He said that the treaty would "take that gold standard and extend it to countries that have never heard of disability rights."

One hundred twenty-six nations have already ratified the CRPD, improving the lives of over one billion people living with disabilities. Over 80 percent of the world's disabled population lives in developing countries where the treaty would have the greatest impact. U.S. ratification of the treaty will not only maintain our essential leadership on disability issues internationally but allow us to play a key role in forming the legislation and policies that will ensure the equality and inclusion of all people with disabilities worldwide.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the CRPD in July by a vote of 13-6, with both Democrats and Republicans supporting U.S. ascension to the treaty. In addition to every major disability and veteran's organization, the treaty is also supported by the United States Chamber of Commerce and key leaders in America's historic bipartisan disability rights movement, including Senator Bob Dole and President George H.W. Bush.

Republican Senator John McCain said on Tuesday that "regardless of where in the world a disabled person strives to live a normal, independent life, where basic rights and accessibilities are available. Disability rights and protections have always been a bipartisan issue, and ratifying this treaty should be no different.""

But successful ratification is still threatened by some senators' refusal to consider an international treaty in the lame duck session of Congress and the treaty opponents are spewing their typical mix of lies, distortions and utter nonsense.

  • Senator Mike Lee of Utah has "grave concerns" about the document's threat to American sovereignty.
  • Former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum says this treaty which supports the rights of people with AIDS, the blind, and disabled believes that it is "a direct assault on us".
  • The Heritage Foundation, which never saw a multilateral treaty that it liked, in its usual manner declared that, the treaty could open the door for abortion advocates "to pressure the U.S. to liberalize its domestic abortion laws or policies governing foreign aid for family planning," according to its UN representative, Grace Melton.

Well enough of this nonsense. This is a treaty that will not change any U.S. laws, but help disabled people around the world get a fair deal.

You can send a message to your senators to support ratification by clicking here. But do it soon because this could move very fast.