UN Ratifies Disability Treaty

On April 3rd, the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) received the necessary 20 member state ratifications for the Treaty to move into implementation. The CRDP will go into effect May 3rd. You can access the CRDP at http://www.un.org/disabilities/

This comprehensive human rights treaty provides many fundamental rights to those with disabilities. Among the sections of the 50-article Treaty are explicit references to the accessibility of information and communications. The most prominent is Article 9 – “Accessibility”, which places accessibility of information, communication, and technologies (ICT) at the same level as Articles on “The right to life”, “Equal recognition before the law”, “Access to justice”, and “Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. You can see that accessible ICT is being taken very seriously.

One of the General obligations of States Parties (Article 4) is “To undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities…” and “To undertake or promote research and development of, and to promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies…”

Once in effect on May 3rd, this new international law will apply to only those countries that have both signed and ratified the CRPD (currently 23 and rising). Over a hundred additional countries have signed onto the Convention. For now, their work is to align their national legislation to the CRPD. Thus, countries such as Japan, Canada, S. Korea, Australia, China, and the United Kingdom are expected to ratify when they complete this internal process, which may take a few years.

There will be no force in effect for those countries that have neither signed nor ratified the CRPD, such as the U.S. It is interesting to me that our government has not signed the Convention, even to underscore its importance in principle. Our nation currently sits in a minority of countries who have not signed, such as Iraq, Haiti, the Congo, and Fiji. U.S. officials have indicated that domestic laws, especially the ADA, are stronger than those of the CRPD. However, how many of us are aware of unequivocal rights in the U.S. to accessible information and communications technologies in both public and private sectors? Many are calling on all Americans to sign a petition in support of the U.S. becoming a signatory to the CRPD.

It is not possible for me to convey how important this event is on a worldwide stage, not just for electronic accessibility efforts, but also for the broad human rights issues that face those with disabilities, particularly in developing countries. Perhaps my fervor for this can’t be separated from the more general issues of human rights and discrimination that those with disabilities face worldwide. For those interested in the rights of persons with disabilities I urge you to read the Preamble for the Convention and its General Principles. They are compelling beyond words. Finally, the world has a chance to enact these principles.

For those of us passionate about making the world a more accessible place, now is the time to help in the global transformation. The basic human right to access information and communication can happen in our lifetime, if we work together. The ratification of this treaty is a major step forward in this process. The important thing here is not that the train has left the station, but that it is well down the track.

Comments

  1. Abeth Dela Cruz

    Dear Ms. Rowland,

    I have been following the progress of the UN Disability Treaty since last year. I do not fully comprehend what it’s all about, but I believe that it is significant to my sister’s predicament. She is mentally handicapped and was refused to migrate because of her condition. Is it possible to get in touch with you in regards with this. I will deeply appreciate it if you can shed some light on some of my queries. Thank you in advance.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    All the best,
    Abeth

  2. Shazia Shamim

    Hi Cyndi, these things are too much bookis for us. In 3rd work countries like india, pakistan etc people are struggling with life who care disabled people life.

    What you think what these Treaty can do for us? I don’t think more then few foreign trip for top elite…

    Thanks

  3. Cyndi Rowland

    I am happy that Shazia shared opinions after reading the Blog on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I have a couple of thoughts I’d like to share after reading the comment. Shazia indicated:

    In 3rd work countries like India, Pakistan etc people are struggling with life who care disabled people life.

    Many people, including myself, believe deeply that all life has value and that, as a civil society, we have a responsibility to work toward the principles of social inclusion for all (including those with disabilities). I believe that I share accountability to this principle for efforts within my reach.

    Certainly Shazia brings up an important issue, which is how “disability” plays out in areas of extreme hardship. In those areas where all people struggle day-to-day for basic necessities, those with disabilities are part of that broader group. I don’t think they are ever expendable to benefit the greater society.

    Shazia indicated:

    What you think what these Treaty can do for us? I don’t think more then few foreign trip for top elite…

    Persons with disabilities across the globe have strengths, abilities, and contributions to their community and country. I believe that the work of many entities, including the UN, will help us get closer to realizing this fact. For countries that have ratified the UN Convention (e.g., India yes, Pakistan no) they will align national goals to the principles of the Convention. I would expect to see differences for those with disabilities in those countries where this alignment has occurred. If this does not happen, persons with disabilities do have recourse in international courts.

    I certainly believe that the UN’s CRPD will help the disability movement across the globe. I hope it is not a mechanism for trip-taking by top disability content experts, rather, an opportunity for real system change. Bit by bit . . . we can each affect positive change in the world

  4. Tom

    I was very hopeful during the presidential campaign when we heard that President Obama was planning to sign the Convention. However, since the election I haven’t heard anything. Theoretically, he has almost four years, but the implementation will tkae a while too.

  5. SARATHI VP

    You are doing a great job. In India, dwarf people are fighting to get themselves the disability status. Can you comment?

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