“I couldn’t sleep at night if I were a senator and did not vote for this.”
So said Steven Rothstein, a leading advocate for the disabled, to the Boston Globe on the eve of the US Senate vote to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Apparently,38 Republican senators decided they’d rather lose sleep than lose their jobs.
The US Senate’s rejection of the UN Disabilities Treaty is the clearest sign yet that reports of the death of the Republican right have been much exaggerated. Tuesday’s vote was the first post-election test of the state of play in the GOP’s inner civil war. It revealed that the religious extremists behind 2012’s “war on women” are still in command of the Republican party.
Since the disabilities treaty attracted scant attention before its ignominious defeat at the hands of the Republican minority on Tuesday, some background is in order. The treaty, like the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act on which it was modeled, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and supports their full participation in society. It’s an admirable goal, targeting a real problem.
In the developing world, 90% of disabled children do not attend school. Millions of disabled people worldwide are excluded from jobs and education, a result of discrimination and the lack of accessible facilities. The treaty has wide support. Over 300 disability organizations and 21 military veterans’ groups favored ratification; 126 countries have already adopted it. Even the United States Chamber of Commerce was on board.
As the preamble to the treaty states, its purpose is to “ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. So, who could be against that?