Here comes the U.N. disabled-rights treaty again

Backers may mount a new push for Senate ratification of a treaty that signs away national sovereignty over various not-unimportant areas of domestic policy, on the rationale that its effects will be mostly symbolic since we have already enacted the far-reaching Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Iain Murray and Geoffrey McLatchey note that despite claims by proponents from President Obama on down, it is simply untrue that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) does no more than elevate into permanent treaty status the ADA’s requirements:

…its provisions far surpass the ADA’s.

For example, the convention’s Article 27, which prohibits “discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment,” is a giant leap from the ADA’s employment standards stating, “no covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” [Emphases added]

“Covered” entity and “qualified” individual are two major constraints on the regulatory scope of the A.D.A., and that’s just the start of the many ways in which the CRPD is of broader scope. I give many more examples here (see also).

Murray and McLatchey also note that

The CRPD also requires the United States to set up a propaganda agency. Yes, you read that right. Article 8 states that signatories must take “immediate and effective measures … to raise awareness throughout society, including at the family level, regarding persons with disabilities, and to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.” It becomes the federal government’s duty to “combat stereotypes… in all areas of life” by “initiating and maintaining effective public awareness campaigns.”

Hans Bader points out another danger:

UN committees like to define free speech as discrimination against minority groups in violation of international treaties, making it dangerous to ratify such treaties. For example, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has ruled Germany violated international law by not prosecuting a former legislator for remarks to a scholarly journal about Turkish-immigrant welfare recipients that were deemed racially offensive. The UN committee ruled Germany’s failure to prosecute the speaker violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

While “anti-disability” speech is perhaps not as familiar concept than speech which offends sensibilities of race, religion, or gender, existing disabled-rights law has generated numerous cases in which speech considered insensitive or hurtful toward persons based on physical, mental, emotional or behavioral disabilities is taken as evidence of an unlawful “hostile environment.”


  • Interesting. If adopted and implemented in the U.S., the CRPD will be the most obvious end-run around democracy that I have ever seen.

    I don’t think that will happen, no matter what signals our Pres. may choose to send. I do not see this passing, even with a Democratic majority.

  • I do not want this to past.