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Factsheet #131

November 5, 2013

The Top Three Myths About the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Obama Administration’s advocacy for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is founded on a false premise—that U.S. ratification will benefit Americans with disabilities, particularly when they travel abroad. There is, however, no evidence whatsoever to support that premise. In reality, the Administration’s case for ratification is founded on a series of myths, debunked here:

Myth #1: U.S. Ratification Will Benefit Americans with Disabilities.

Fact: Ratification of the CRPD will not benefit persons with disabilities in the United States. As conceded by the treaty’s proponents, the United States already has a wide range of federal laws that protect and advance the rights of Americans with disabilities. Major pieces of legislation include the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Fair Housing Act. U.S. law and the executive and judicial mechanisms available to enforce it meet or exceed the provisions of the CRPD.

Myth #2: U.S. Ratification Will Benefit American Veterans with Disabilities Who Live, Work, or Travel Abroad.

Fact: Proponents of CRPD ratification have promised Americans with disabilities—including American veterans who have served their country and sacrificed their limbs or senses in combat—that U.S. ratification of the CRPD will directly benefit them by improving accessibility in foreign countries. That is an empty promise that cannot be kept and should not be extended by treaty proponents because not a shred of evidence supports it.

Ratification of a human rights treaty constitutes an international commitment by a nation to protect the rights of people located on that nation’s territory and to treat them in a non-discriminatory manner. It does not oblige a nation to promote those rights abroad. U.S. ratification will neither bolster the rights of persons with disabilities in foreign countries nor improve accessibility in those countries.

Myth #3: U.S. Ratification is Necessary to Establish American Leadership on Disability Issues.

Fact: U.S. membership in the CRPD is not necessary, much less essential, to demonstrate American leadership on disability rights or to foster collaboration between the United States and foreign countries to improve disability rights and accessibility in those countries. The United States, acting primarily through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), funds and administers programs around the world that deliver aid, technical support, equipment, and other services to advance disability rights in scores of foreign countries. USAID has managed to successfully perform its mission, and will continue to do so, without U.S. ratification of the CRPD.

Across the globe USAID provides wheelchairs and training in their use; works with foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to raise public awareness of disability rights; establishes athletic programs; promotes access to education for persons with disabilities; campaigns to better integrate persons with disabilities into the labor force; and urges other nations to provide better access to health care for persons with disabilities.

The United States does this because the American people are generous, not because of any human rights treaty.

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