Universal Disability Rights – Remind Me Again Why We Don’t Care?

9 Dec


Well, I was going to write about how conservatives are sometimes more open to discussing issues faced by disabled people than liberals are.  Then on Tuesday, all but eight Republican senators voted against the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, making sure the United States distinguishes itself as one of the few nations on earth that will not commit to protecting disabled rights.  Appeals by the likes of the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association, and senior Republicans (and disabled veterans) John McCain and Bob Dole were to no avail.  So I’m not in the mood to write any sort of tribute to conservative ideals this week.

Supporters of ratification like Dole and John Kerry argued that the United States would be leading the world, since much of the Convention was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Opponents argued that this is exactly why ratification is of little importance.  We already have the ADA and we don’t like the UN, so who cares?  But By refusing to ratify the Convention, the United States is undermining its authority, ultimately saying, “Too bad!” to the disabled citizens of other countries that will also abstain, where ableism is sometimes deadly.  (Do we need to talk about the thousands of medical conditions that are still thought to be works of the devil or punishment by God in far too many cultures?)  But this is not just a matter of the United States choosing whether or not to officially lead the world.  When it comes to human rights at home, complacency can be devastating.

 In many respects, the U.S. is not coming out on top.  According to an OECD 2009 study of 21 developed countries cited by the World Bank and WHO last year, disabled people of working-age are more likely to live below the poverty line than non-disabled people in every country but Norway, Sweden, and Slovakia.  This likelihood is highest in the United States, Australia, Ireland, and Korea, and lowest in the Netherlands, Iceland, and Mexico.  According to WHO, the discrepancy between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled citizens is twice as high in the United States (35 percentage points) as in Germany (18 percentage points).  And in the U.S., the risk of violence against people with disabilities is four to ten times higher than against people without disabilities. 

I will never officially endorse a candidate or a party on this blog.  Despite obvious political trends at the macrocosmic level, personal experience has shown me that people of all political stripes believe in universal human rights and I never wish to alienate anyone over issues not directly related to equality.  But shame on every single senator who blocked the Convention.  No one has ever protected human rights on an international scale through isolationist policies.  In a world where people with dwarfism still have little hope of employment outside the circus, people with albinism are persecuted, surgeries are performed without consent, and a diagnosis of mental illness is thrust upon LGBT people and denied people with clinical depression, international cooperation is crucial.  Otherwise, human rights disintegrates back into its inconsistent old self and becomes nothing more than a matter of privilege.  




14 Responses to “Universal Disability Rights – Remind Me Again Why We Don’t Care?”

  1. Uncle Andy December 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    We do more than enough in the United States to help the disabled and those with special needs under the ADA. Businesses and government spend billions every year to satisfy ADA requirements, which are often onerous, and at times, even ridiculous.

    We don’t need to be told what to do and what laws we must adhere by a bunch of degenerates, throat cutters, and other trash in the United Nations. This is supposed to be a sovereign country. America ceases to be a sovereign nation when we sell out and cede our own good laws to international organizations.

    • Stalking Sarah December 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

      I see your point on this — it does cost money to satisfy these kinds of requirements — but I see it as a good thing. Much like investment in infrastructure, investment in becoming ADA-compliant (or better) could be a great thing for our economy right now. For instance, I live in a major city where many of the subway stations are not accessible. They are finally bringing my home station up to code, and you know what? It is a lot of work (they’re also fixing some other long-standing issues), but it is creating jobs, which we desperately need. So for me, this is a good example about how creating a better world for people with disabilities can actually help improve the economy of the entire country.

  2. Johnny December 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Might does not always have right. Every country needs to take a step back sometimes and see what the rest of the world is doing to see how they measure up. This time the US falls short. It’s a shame that the previous commenter thinks that the people at the UN are worthless because this time they are right when they say that the US needs to do more.

  3. Mom in Oz January 29, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    Not to rain on you but I am very thankful that they weren’t able to pass that law. Do you have any idea what was in that thing? It literally strips down parental rights and give those rights to the State. Do you know who decides how things are handled in these United States in that document? A Panel of people, with NO MEDICAL BACKGROUND, telling us how to raise our kids.

    Look through the entire document on the Convention and see where it mentions parents and their role in the education, upbringing and medical care of your child. It isn’t in there!

    That convention is nothing more than an international attempt at passing the ADA around the world and beginning to lay the foundation for an international government.

    Watch this and then see why this UN law is not what you want!

    • Mom in Oz January 29, 2013 at 2:35 am #

      Wrong link above – this is the correct one!

    • Emily Sullivan Sanford January 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      Thanks for the video, though it addresses the Convention on the Rights of the Child, not the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I know Rick Santorum argued that his problem with the latter was its similar language to the former; i.e., “The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” He concluded that any nation that ratifies the CRPD hands all medical decisions regarding any disabled child over to the U.N. But Germany has ratified the treaty and over here parents always decide medical procedures for their under-age children. The state only steps in if the parents have lost or given up custody of the child, or if one of the parents is opposed to a procedure that the other parent wants. (For example, the circumcision debate in Germany that I wrote about last year was sparked by a mother deciding to have her 4 year-old son circumcised while the father was opposed to it. The court concluded that such a medically unnecessary procedure *MUST* be certified by a medical professional and that both parents must give consent.)

      As for specific language involving parents in the CPRD, there’s Article 18, Section 2 of the CPRD which states: “Children with disabilities shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by their parents.”

      Article 23 (“Respect for Home and the Family”), Section 4 states: “States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents.”

      My experience with achondroplasia and limb-lengthening has made me VERY sensitive to any heated debates about who should choose a major medical procedure for a child. Some have accused my family of forcing me into it, and on the flipside many adults said both before and after the fact that I wasn’t capable of making the decision for myself because I was “just a kid.” My parents wanted me to undergo limb-lengthening, but they ultimately helped me feel that it was my decision. Even though I was still underage, it was I who decided against having my scars removed and to not undergo tendon repair surgery for the third time. I wrote in the book Surgically Shaping Children—which is about elective surgeries—how my experience showed me how important it is for a child to feel that the decision is theirs, even if the parents are ultimately those who decide in the eyes of the law. Let me know if you’d like a copy. I checked out your blog and I really admire how much you love your daughter as she is!

    • Emily Sullivan Sanford January 31, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      Also, specifically in response to the film, I run workshops for pre-school educators about teaching diversity awareness. I think books about families with two mommies or two daddies are just as wonderful as books about families with a child with dwarfism. If you disagree, I’d be interested to hear why.


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