December 14th, 2006 11:06 EST
U.S. Hails Convention on Rights of the Disabled
United Nations -- Praising the monumental work of the General Assembly, U.S. Ambassador Richard Miller said a landmark disability convention adopted by the assembly will assure that persons with disabilities are treated on an equal basis with others.
The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted December 13 by the General Assembly by consensus. The convention requires states that ratify it to enact laws and other measures to improve the rights of the disabled and abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities. The convention will open for signature on March 30, 2007, and will enter into force after it has been ratified by 20 countries.
"There is much to be proud of in this convention," Miller told the General Assembly after the convention was adopted. "It is based on respect for the inherent dignity and worth of all persons with disabilities. It contains strong provisions on a variety of important issues, including political participation, access to justice, accessibility, health, the crucial role of family and end-of-life issues.
"The convention is firmly rooted in the principles of equality and nondiscrimination," said the ambassador, who is the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council.
The United States believes that the most effective way for states to improve the situation of persons with disabilities legally is to strengthen domestic laws related to nondiscrimination and equality, Miller said, adding that that belief is based on the U.S. experience with legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The United States’ Rehabilitation Act of 1973 required government agencies to hire people with disabilities. Over the years, the U.S. Congress has passed 11 additional major laws to improve access to education, transportation, technology and housing. The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, required businesses to make accommodations to allow people with disabilities to do jobs for which they are qualified. It also required public facilities to remove architectural barriers that keep the disabled from doing such things as shopping, visiting museums and attending entertainment events. (See related article.)
In 2001, President Bush announced the New Freedom Initiative, designed to expand the ability of individuals with disabilities to access technologies and education and to take advantage of workplace and home ownership opportunities.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the convention's adoption as "the dawn of a new era" for more than 650 million persons around the world living with disabilities. In the future, he said, disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for far too long.
The convention is noteworthy on several levels, the secretary-general said: It is the first human rights treaty to be adopted in the 21st century, the most rapidly negotiated human rights treaty in the history of international law and the first international convention to emerge from lobbying conducted extensively through the Internet.
The full text of Miller’s prepared statement in support of the convention is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The full text of the convention is available on the United Nations Web site.
For more information about U.S. policies affecting the disabled, see the electronic journal Disability and Ability.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Judy Aita
USINFO United Nations Correspondent