Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Defeated in the Senate

The Senate vote on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) fell short of the 66 needed – two thirds of Senators who voted ( Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) was absent).  Former Senator Bob Dole, a champion of the Americans with Disabilities Act, was present on the Senate floor and urged his fellow Republicans to vote in favor of the CRPD.   Unfortunately, his plea, along with the strong support of several Republican Senators and policy leaders and the disability community, was not enough to overcome the unfounded fears raised by the opposition.  The final vote was 61-38.

13 thoughts on “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Defeated in the Senate

  1. I am the mother of a disabled child, and I am offended that the ARC characterizes my concerns about the UN CRPD as “unfounded fears.”

    The U.S. Constitution (article 6) makes treaties that are ratified the highest law of the land. “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land;” A treaty (including the CRPD) will be the supreme law of the land – how is the Constitution an unfounded fear?

    The UN CRPD has been implemented in other nations as having authority to override parental decisions regarding the education of disabled children – for example, in New Zealand, parents can chose their child’s educational placement UNLESS the child is disabled. If your child is disabled, the government chooses where your child is educated. How is this an “unfounded fear?”

    Supporters say the CRPD is symbolic, and will not change current law. However, as the treaty becomes the supreme law of the land, the treaty OVERRIDES current law – claims that the treaty will not “change” current law is nothing more than creative and misleading wordsmithing. As the supreme law of the land, the treaty overrides all domestic law. Take for example the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which was used this summer to strip a mother from pursuing her custody case in American courts after the father of the children fled the country. That happened right here in America because the Hague Convention is the supreme law of the land, just like the CRPD would be if ratified. How is this an “unfounded fear?”

    The last thing I will mention is this: Supporters of this treaty are claiming the CRPD will not affect domestic law, yet they rejected the Reservations, Understandings and Declarations (RUD) offered by Senator DeMint that would have expressly made the CRPD symbolic. If the supporters of this treaty are being honest, why are they afraid of putting their promises in writing? And how is their refusal an “unfounded fear?” When lawmakers make promises they will not back up in writing, a good advocate will question their sincerity.

    As of today, has secured 10,207 signatures of people who live with disabilities, or who have family members that are disabled, that OPPOSE this treaty, and as the mother of a disabled child, I am pleading with The ARC to re-consider their support of this treaty.

    I am in full support of rights for the disabled, but giving a treaty a nice-sounding title does not remove or invalidate legitimate concerns. I am asking The ARC to please use their advocacy skills before supporting a treaty where there are (at best) too many unanswered questions. Anything less is a disservice to children like mine. Thank-you.

  2. I totally agree with Jodi. I am also a mother of a disabled child and use the ARC services in our local community, but I led a charge AGAINST the UN-CRPD. I also find your description of “unfounded fears” to be offensive.
    In particular, I found Article 7 of the UN-CRPD giving “States Parties” the ability to make decisions extremely troubling. No one in favor of the treaty was ever able to give me a reasonable explanation for the wording.
    If you want a treaty calling for ADA wording and rights, I’m all in! But to suggest I am in any way uninformed or running scared is ridiculous!
    In this case, the ARC was not an advocate for children with disabilities and I’m troubled by that.

  3. I am the parent of a disabled child. I am strongly opposed to UN CRPD! I have gotten support from our local chapter of ARC. I am thankful for the work that ARC does but deeply troubled by your support of UN CRPD. I called someone on the board of our local chapter of ARC to express my concerns about UN CRPD. He admitted to me that he had not read the treaty and was not aware of what was in it. I’ve made calls to many disability advocacy groups that support UN CRPD and have been told the same thing. In fact one group told me that they will not support UN CRPD again because they did not feel they had been educated enough about what the effects of it will be if it is ratified.
    Disability advocacy groups lobbying for the ratification of UN CRPD have not made a convincing case for what they really aim to achieve by supporting UN CRPD and exactly how the ratification of this treaty would help the disabled. I am appalled at the false claims made by Sen. Kerry, Sen. McCain, Sen. Warner, and other supporters, stating that ratifying this treaty would help disabled Americans travelling abroad. A staffer I spoke with in Sen. Warner’s office admitted that this language is not in the treaty. It is an empty promise that is only implied indirectly. However, that is not what the disabled community has been told through the media. I find it reprehensible that supporters of this treaty would be misleading disabled people by promoting this type of propaganda.
    Joni and Friends, a worldwide advocacy group for disabled people, has strongly opposed this treaty (read their statement here: I agree with Joni, there are better ways to advocate for the disabled worldwide and to offer them the practical help they need. I can not understand why any group would want the UN in charge of advocating for the disabled. This is the same UN that has a horrid record on human rights and has allowed countries that are known abusers of the disabled to be on their human rights committee. The United States is perfectly capable of advocating for the disabled worldwide, without the help of the United Nations. There are other ways to advocate for the disabled without wasting our time on meaningless treaties. I hope ARC will reconsider their support of this treaty.

  4. I came to this website because I heared you are one of the few that supports the UN CRPD. I am very excited to see Jodi’s remarks because she has articulated quite well the concerns that I have and so I will not reiterate her details other than to say I agree completely! I believe that Americans should be the only ones to make laws for America. The verbage in this treaty changes that as we know it. While supporters of the treaty think that those who are opposed to it are acting on “unfounded fears,” please consider the cases that we see where judges are using customary international law, meaning they are basing their decisions on UN Treaties (treaties that we are not even party to) rather than history of previous US cases/laws. We must make ourselves more aware of what we are signing before we sign it. Thank you for your consideration.

  5. Why does ARC support a treaty that gives the government the right to make decisions for disabled minors? Parents have the ability to make the best decision because: 1. They know the child better than anyone else could ever hope to and 2. they love their child, unconditionally. ARC should be opposing UN CRPD.

  6. I also am the mother of a disabled child, and I agree with Jodi and Brenda, so I won’t belabor the point by repeating everything they stated so well.

    I find it ironic that the same legislators who argue for my right to have ended the pregnancy now want to take away my right to make decisions for this child who I CHOSE to have. I love my daughter, and it is MY responsibility to see to her education, not the government’s.

  7. I am the mother of a child with a significant disability and I an against ratification of the CRPD, precisely because I love my child so much that I want nothing to hamper my ability to advocate for her. Parents should retain the ability to make decisions for their children, not governments, and certainly not the U.N. Let’s not be naive. Let’s be students of history. This kind of power transfer is being couched in altruistic language and it will sound wonderful. But it is beyond foolish to not see where such a decision could lead… and how could letting the U.N. decide what’s best for MY child be of benefit? Please reconsider your position.

  8. Former Sen. Santorum, a home-school group, and others mistakenly believe that the UN will control aspects of their personal lives, such as where their children may attend school. Of course, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) would do no such thing. No US laws will change at all if we ratify the treaty. State laws concerning home schooling, for example, will continue to be in place. The CRPD is modeled on our ADA. To read more about the treaty, including the actual language, go to

    • I have read the entire text of UN CRPD. Specifically what practical benefit would be offered to the disabled as a result of the US ratifying UN CRPD? I have read the entire text and I cannot find any.

  9. i have read the treaty and i will tell you that this treaty trumps state laws. it would abolish existing laws. it would give access to private homes where the disabled person lives with his/her family. I urge you to please oppose this treaty. Our fears as parents are real for a reason.

  10. To: The ARC,

    Why is it a “mistake” to believe that the UN CRPD would control where our disabled children go to school? Article 24 of the CRPD says “States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels […]”

    As advocates, you surely know the term “inclusion” means placing a child in the general education classroom. What you may not know is that the word “shall” is a legal word – it means “has a duty to” and is “used to impose a duty on a capable actor.”

    “State parties (government) SHALL (has a duty to) ensure an INCLUSIVE (general classroom) education system at all levels…”

    The UN has “a child friendly booklet version” of the CRPD. Perhaps taking a closer look at the treaty from this perspective will help:

    “If you have a disability, you cannot be excluded from education because of it. You should not be educated in segregated schools. You have the right to the same education and curriculum as other children, and your government must give you the help you need to make this happen.

    What are barriers to education for children with disabilities? Example: Parents won’t allow child to go to school. […] How can we work to overcome these barriers? Identify children with disabilities in your community that are hidden away by their parents or not allowed to go to school and join in community life; talk to parents about the benefits of attending school.”

    There is no doubt that the UN CRPD does NOT ADVOCATE PARENTAL CHOICE IN EDUCATION.

    In a sense you are “technically” right when you say that “No US laws will change at all if we ratify the treaty,” but your wording is misleading. While no law would “change” per se, existing law becomes obsolete as a treaty OVERRIDES EXISTING LAW. This is long-established by the Supreme Court (dating all the way back to 1796 in Ware v. Hylton where a Virginia law was declared “null and void” because the Treaty superseded the Virginia statute).

    Another example: In 1922 (Missouri v. Holland) the Supreme Court specifically applied the Supremacy Clause to international treaties (like the CRPD). The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government’s ability to make treaties is supreme over any State concerns that such treaties might abrogate states’ rights arising under the Tenth Amendment.

    “In the United States, a different principle is established. Our constitution declares a treaty to be the law of the land. It is, consequently, to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an act of the legislature…” ~ Justia U.S. Law (

    I can appreciate that The ARC wants to protect the disabled ~ but your response fails to address any concerns, except to make the vague assertion that opponents of this treaty are “mistaken.”

    However, the opponents are relying on the Constitution, the text of the CRPD, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (yes, there’s a treaty on treaties), and centuries of case law that support their concerns. The ARC has not actually addressed the merits of any of these very legitimate concerns, and to throw your agency’s support behind a treaty such as this without giving due consideration to these issues is not wise.

    If there is reason to believe the Supreme Court case law, the Constitution, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the actual text of the CRPD, the statements made by the UN disability panel in New York days before the senate vote, etc. etc. is wrong, please explain why.

    Because education trumps propaganda.

    (P.S. I’ve read the entire CRPD, plus I watched the entire testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, and all the debates on the senate floor – thanks for the link though!)

  11. Fear this:

    Sadistic, cowardly Caregivers hate on defenseless non verbal, autistic man by punching him, pulling his hair and slamming him to ground and poking him in the eye. They were caught on tape secretly abusing the patient over several different shifts. Shoving him on bed, keeping him a prisoner on bed. Clearly, A stealth way to show their secret hate. Let’s hope they go to jail for a long time. Keep your eye on this case, it will speak for many adults with disabilities and especially vulnerable adults with autism (autistics often have communication challenges so can’t tell someone they are being abused) who live in our communities.

    • While this is an extremely sad story Margret and angers me as an American, what does it have to do with the UN CRPD? Ratifying UN CRPD would not change this situation.

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