Let’s Try Again: Why the United States Should Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

43 Pages Posted: 14 May 2019

See all articles by Arlene S. Kanter

Arlene S. Kanter

Syracuse University - College of Law

Date Written: 2019


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (hereinafter “CRPD”) was adopted by the United Nations in 2006 and entered into force in 2008. Since then, 177 countries have ratified it, but not the United States. This is not the first time that the United States has failed to ratify a human rights treaty. Of the nine core human rights treaties that the United Nations has adopted, the United States has ratified only three. Based on this record, the United States is considered to have one of the worst treaty ratification records in the world. Accordingly, it may come as no surprise that even after President Obama signed the CRPD, the United States Senate has failed to ratify the CRPD, not once but on two occasions. It is acknowledged that the CRPD goes beyond the rights provided in the ADA, in some significant ways. However, that is not a reason not to ratify. In fact, the best reason for the US to ratify the CRPD is that ratification will help to fully realize the promise of the ADA and its 2008 amendments. Accordingly, in this article, the author argues that the United States Senate should ratify the CRPD without any further delay. The first section of this article provides an overview of the CRPD, followed by the second section, which includes a discussion of the ways in which the CRPD differs from the ADA of 1990 as well as the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The third section of this article discusses the process that led to the failure of the US Senate to ratify the CRPD, including responses to the arguments against ratification presented by a group of “Tea Party” Republican Senators. The article concludes with an immediate call for the Senate to ratify the CRPD in order to fulfill its duty to Americans with disabilities. Given the current composition of the United States Senate and the isolationist policies of the Trump administration, however, the author concedes that despite the many benefits of CRPD ratification, it is unlikely to occur any time soon.

Keywords: human rights, disability, convention on the rights of people with disabilities, US Senate

JEL Classification: K33, I118

Suggested Citation

Kanter, Arlene S., Let’s Try Again: Why the United States Should Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2019). Touro Law Review, Vol. 35, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3373259

Arlene S. Kanter (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States

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