On December 4, 2012, the Senate voted against ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The treaty received YES votes from sixty-one Senators, just six votes short of the two-thirds majority required for ratification. In voting against ratification of the CRPD, the Senate has turned its back on the American disability and veteran communities and failed to live up to the example of America's role as a leader on disability rights.
Joining a disability community, universally disappointed by the treaty's rejection in the Senate, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had this to say, "Ratification would require no changes to U.S. law…it would position the United States to support extending across the globe the rights that Americans already enjoy at home. This in turn would improve the lives of Americans with disabilities – including our wounded service members – who wish to live, work, and travel abroad. We hope the Senate will reconsider this treaty soon in the next Congress. As President Obama declared…disability rights should not stop at our nation's shores."
"The Epilepsy Foundation was proud to join such a strong group of disability and veteran organizations in working for the ratification of this treaty and with people like Tony Coelho leading this effort, I have no doubt that we'll be able to encourage the Senate to stand up for the disability community and declare their equal rights in the U.S. and around the world," said Epilepsy Foundation President & CEO Phil Gattone.
While the Epilepsy Foundation was greatly saddened by the treaty's defeat, we are encouraged by the bipartisan support it received among the 61 Yeas, including Senators John Kerry and John McCain. The CRPD was also bolstered by former Presidents George H.W and George W. Bush as well as disability rights champions, former Senate Majority Leader- Robert Dole and lead sponsor for the Americans with disabilities Act and current Epilepsy Foundation board member Tony Coelho. Coelho had this reaction the vote, "Egregious partisanship, the first of its kind with disability rights legislation, is what kept us from ratifying this treaty. And now egregious partisanship will cost us the respect of our closest global allies. We are battered but not broken. This fight is not over. People around the world count on us and we will not stop our tireless advocacy for them."
Disappointed, but not deterred, we are confident that the CRPD will be reintroduced during the 113th Congress. Upon reintroduction, the CRPD will have no greater champion than the Foundation and its advocates, who will as always, be ready to fight for the rights of the epilepsy community and all Americans living with disabilities both here and abroad.