Obama To Announce U.S. Signing Of International Treaty On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

July 24, 2009 12:00 am

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Please note: This release has been updated to reflect the fact that Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations will sign the CRPD next week, not President Obama. We apologize for any inconvenience.

ACLU Welcomes Announcement On The ADA’s 19th Anniversary

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WASHINGTON – At a celebration today of the 19th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President Obama will announce that the U.S. will sign the most comprehensive international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. If ratified by the Senate, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will be the fourth major human rights treaty ever adopted by the U.S. and the first it has adopted in the 21st century. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes President Obama’s reengagement of the United States in international human rights efforts.

“This is a great day for the rights of people with disabilities and a step forward for the U.S. human rights movement,” said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “In signing the CRPD, President Obama will place the U.S. back into a leading role in the promotion and stewardship of human rights at home and abroad. The United States is far too important a country to remain on the sidelines of such vital work.”

Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, will sign the CRPD next week at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The Convention, signed by 140 nations since May 2008, has significant overlap with the ADA and the other U.S. laws protecting disability rights. However, the Convention provides a holistic and inclusive framework around which disability is defined. It also addresses the problems individuals with disabilities encounter in society by accounting for past discrimination and includes specific articles related to the rights of women and children with disabilities. Under the Convention, ratifying countries are obligated to prevent discrimination against, promote accessibility for and work to achieve the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights for persons with disabilities.

“Nothing could make today’s celebration of the ADA – one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed – more complete than President Obama’s announcement that he will sign the Convention,” said Deborah J. Vagins, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. “Every one of us in America and around the world deserves equal opportunity, economic independence and full participation in society.”

During his campaign, then-Senator Obama promised that he would sign the CRPD. The Bush administration had chosen not to sign the CRPD, although it did participate in the negotiating sessions of the Convention. Under the U.S. Constitution, after the Senate gives its advice and consent to ratification, a treaty becomes law.

“If adopted by the United States, the CRPD would inspire a more vigorous and comprehensive approach within the U.S. to address the myriad injustices still suffered by persons with disabilities,” said James Felakos, a Disability Rights Fellow with the ACLU. “We look forward to the Senate’s ratification of the CRPD.”

Felakos’ essay on the CRPD is available at: www.udhr60.org/enabling_everyone.pdf

Information about the ACLU’s work on the rights of disabled persons is available at: www.aclu.org/disability/index.html

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