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Politics of Power have Disability Treaty Stalled in Senate

PHOTO: Dylan Brown with the Center for Independent Living in Middle Tennessee wants a new Senate vote on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Photo courtesy Tennessee Disability Coalition.
PHOTO: Dylan Brown with the Center for Independent Living in Middle Tennessee wants a new Senate vote on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Photo courtesy Tennessee Disability Coalition.
January 15, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An international human rights treaty that's been bottled up for more than a year has hundreds of organizations for veterans and people with disabilities across the country calling for a new vote in the U.S. Senate.

Protections for those with disabilities that are similar to those in the United States should be in place across the globe, said Dylan Brown, certified work incentive coordinator for the Center for Independent Living in Middle Tennessee.

"This is an important thing for us as a country to sign onto, so our leadership is seen around the world and we can be used as an example of how people with disabilities, if given the right and ability to be a fuller member of society, then there are lots of things that people can do," Brown said. "And I think around the world, that's certainly not the case right now, in a lot of places."

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities narrowly failed in December 2012. Both Tennessee's U.S. senators, Repulicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, voted against it, citing concerns about authority and how it may conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has said ratification would have no impact on the law in the United States. That's also the takeaway from Brown, who noted that there are still places abroad where people with disabilities suffer severe mistreatment and neglect.

"The treaty is not giving any authority to the U.N. that we're going to have to go by some law outside of our own," Brown said. "It's just basically stating that we, as Americans, are behind the rights of individuals with disabilities all around the world."

The treaty has been signed by more than 150 countries. In the United States, it was negotiated and first signed under former President George W. Bush and then signed again by President Obama in 2009.

Information about the treaty is online at foreign.senate.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN