WHAT IS THE DISABILITIES CONVENTION? The Disabilities Convention is an international treaty designed to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities. The Convention was adopted on December 13, 2006, and entered into force on May 3, 2008. On July 30, 2009, the United States signed the Convention. As of May 16, 2012, there are 112 parties to the Convention and another 52 countries, including the United States, who are signatories but not yet parties. WHAT DOES THE DISABILITIES CONVENTION SEEK TO ACHIEVE? Eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, and the World Bank estimates that 20 percent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged. Ninety percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. The goal of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of rights by persons with disabilities. The Convention sets forth obligations to be implemented by States Parties to advance opportunities and prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities. Overarching principles of the Convention include respect for dignity and individual autonomy, equality of opportunity and non-discrimination, and inclusion of persons with disabilities. Importantly, equality of treatment and non-discrimination are the primary principles permeating the entire treaty. The Convention’s provisions cover a number of key areas such as: ■ Participation in political life and access to justice ■ Freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment ■ Accessibility, personal mobility, and reasonable accommodation ■ Health and Rehabilitation ■ Education ■ Employment At its core, the Convention seeks to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights as everyone else and are able to lead their lives as do other individuals, if given the same opportunities.

WHY RATIFY THE DISABILITIES CONVENTION? The United States has always been a world leader in ensuring the rights of individuals with disabilities, through strong domestic legislation and enforcement measures. The United States has made great progress toward the goals of inclusion, equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. By becoming a party to the Convention, the United States will continue its leadership role and will be in a better position to support, assist, and encourage other States to ratify and implement the Convention, contributing to verifiable improvements in foreign countries in guaranteeing to persons with disabilities equality of opportunity, non-discrimination, accessibility, and reasonable accommodation. This benefits the approximately one billion people in the world who have a disability, including the vast number of Americans with disabilities who travel, study, work, reside, and retire abroad. Full U.S. participation in the treaty will also increase opportunities for harmonizing other countries’ standards with those of the United States and for U.S. businesses to provide technical assistance and expertise to foreign countries, and to market abroad their path-breaking products and innovative technologies. Similarly, U.S. disability organizations, consultants, and other experts will benefit from increased opportunities to guide overseas companies and foreign governments in the adoption of standards similar to those enjoyed in the United States. WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR RATIFYING THE DISABILITIES CONVENTION? The President has transmitted the Convention to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. The Presidential transmittal message is accompanied by a certified text of the treaty, and a report from the Secretary of State which contains a detailed Article by Article analysis of the Convention. Under typical procedures, the Disabilities Convention would be referred by the Senate to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Committee may, at its discretion, hold a hearing and ultimately consider the Convention at a business meeting, at which point it may report the treaty out to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation. Once the Convention is reported out to the Senate and the Committee report is filed, the Convention is added to the Senate’s Executive Calendar, and the Majority Leader can make a motion to proceed with the Convention for full Senate consideration. If the Convention is approved by a 2/3 majority of the Senators present, the Convention is returned to the President. The Senate may also condition its approval of the treaty by including, e.g., reservations, understandings, or declarations in its Resolution of Advice and Consent. Once the Senate has given its advice and consent to ratification, the President may sign the instrument of ratification, which is then deposited with the treaty depositary. The treaty will enter into force for the United States 30 days after deposit of its instrument of ratification.


WHAT WILL THE CONVENTION REQUIRE OF THE UNITED STATES? The Disabilities Convention states as its purpose the protection of the full and equal enjoyment of rights by persons with disabilities and the promotion of respect for their inherent dignity, including enjoyment on an equal basis with others of access to justice, political participation, freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom of expression, respect for home and the family, education, health, and employment. Ratification of the Disabilities Convention as recommended in the transmittal package would require no new legislation or regulations in the United States. Under the carefully crafted package of Reservations, Understandings, and a Declaration recommended by the Executive, existing federal law would be sufficient to implement the Disabilities Convention. Upon ratification, the United States would be required to report and conduct a dialogue periodically with the committee established by the Convention on the laws and regulations relied upon to implement Convention obligations. Any guidance provided by the committee would be advisory and nonbinding in character. WILL RATIFICATION OF THE DISABILITIES CONVENTION REQUIRE CHANGES TO UNITED STATES LAW? No. With appropriate Reservations, Understandings, and a Declaration (RUDs), U.S. obligations would be fully implemented under existing U.S. law. Current U.S. federal legislation contains a vast and effective array of provisions and programs to fight discrimination against persons with disabilities. These laws include the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Title V), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, among many other laws. WILL RATIFICATION CHANGE THE LAWS OF THE 50 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA? No. With appropriate reservations as proposed by the Executive Branch in its treaty transmittal package, the treaty will not impose any additional obligations on the 50 states or the District of Columbia. IF THE UNITED STATES RATIFIES THE CONVENTION, WHO OR WHAT WOULD OVERSEE OR ENFORCE THE TREATY? Only the United States would be responsible for U.S. compliance with the Disabilities Convention. The Disabilities Committee established by the Convention, which receives and reviews initial and periodic reports from Parties on implementation of the Convention, is permitted to make conclusions, recommendations, and general comments. These are not binding on any Party and cannot compel any action by a Party. The United States would look to its own domestic laws and domestic federal agencies, including an imposing network of federal statutes

and federal enforcement machinery (outlined in substantial detail in the treaty transmittal package) to ensure compliance by the United States with the Convention.


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