United Spinal believes that we must promote the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act to nations around the world to enhance the quality of life of all people with disabilities.

United Spinal continues to push for the United States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disabilities Treaty).

The Disabilities Treaty is a UN human rights treaty that promotes the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act around the world. The treaty sets out the obligations of countries that ratify it to promote, protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of people with disabilities. To date, 158 nations have signed the treaty, including the United States, and 143 nations have ratified it.

On December 4, 2012, the treaty was brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate for ratification. While former Senator and disabled veteran Bob Dole looked on, the Senate voted not to ratify the treaty by a final vote of 61 to 38. Sixty-six votes were needed to ratify the treaty.

The majority of opposition to the Disabilities Treaty was based on misinformation about the impact of the treaty on our nation’s sovereignty and the ability of parents to homeschool their children. In fact, the treaty would neither endanger our nation’s sovereignty nor would it lessen parental rights.

Because the previous session of Congress ended, the treaty was returned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We have been assured by Democratic Leaders in the Senate that ratifying the treaty remains a top priority.

In 2013, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held two hearings on the Disabilities Treaty. On November 5, hearing witness Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) did an excellent job explaining why the treaty is important for our nation’s 5.5 million veterans living with a disability. On November 21, the committee held a second hearing at which Secretary of State John Kerry testified about the importance of ratification for all Americans living with disabilities. The business community, represented by IBM, also testified about the importance of US involvement in international disability rights to help ensure that standards for access are standardized around the world.

In 2014, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) told advocates that he will continue to fight for ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.

03/28/2014: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) told advocates that he will continue to fight for ratification of the Disabilities Treaty. Senator Harkin also released a video requesting stories from people with disabilities regarding their experiences in working, studying, and traveling abroad.

01/20/2014: VetsFirst’s Christopher Neiweem wrote an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report in support of U.S. ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.

01/15/2014: VetsFirst and other coalition partners met with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) regarding the Disabilities Treaty. Senator Ayotte expressed her continued strong support for ratification.

01/15/2014: VetsFirst joined advocates from Tennessee in a meeting with Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) regarding his decision not to support the Disabilities Treaty. Although the meeting was well received, Ranking Member Corker restated his opposition.

01/08/2014: United Spinal’s VetsFirst program returned to Capitol Hill to encourage Senators to support ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.

12/20/2013: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) announced that he would not be able to support the Disabilities Treaty, ending negotiations with Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ). United Spinal is extremely disappointed in Senator Corker’s decision. We call upon him to reconsider his position and resume negotiations.

12/03/2013: On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we called on advocates to let their Senators know that the U.S. must ratify the Disabilities Treaty.

11/21/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a second hearing on the Disabilities Treaty. At the hearing, Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) referenced letters of support from 15 veterans service organizations. After the hearing, the Chairman met with veterans and staff representing the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and United Spinal’s VetsFirst program to thank them for their support.

11/14/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced that it will hold a second hearing on the Disabilities Treaty on November 21. Secretary of State John Kerry is among the witnesses who will testify.

11/8/2013: United Spinal Association President and CEO Paul Tobin met with UN Ambassador Samantha Power to discuss veteran support for the Disabilities Treaty. Ambassador Power pledged her support in fighting for ratification.

11/5/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Disabilities Treaty. Witnesses supporting the treaty explained to a crowded hearing room why America must ratify the treaty to ensure disability rights abroad. Although neither for nor against the treaty, University of Georgia Assistant Law Professor Timothy Meyer testified that any opposition concerns such as sovereignty can be fully addressed by the Committee before ratification.

10/30/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced that it will hold a hearing on the Disabilities Treaty on November 5. Witnesses will include treaty supporters Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

09/17/2013: An NSCIA member from our Atlanta chapter, Kim Harrison, attended an educational forum on the Disabilities Treaty in Washington, DC sponsored by the National Council on Disability. Advocates from across the nation were in attendance. Afterwards, Kim and other advocates headed to Capitol Hill to meet with key Senate offices to express support for ratification.

08/09/2013: The U.S. State Department has launched a new section on its website devoted to the Disabilities Treaty.

07/25/2013:In celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, leaders of the disability and civil and human rights organizations spoke in support of ratification of the Disabilities Treaty at a well-attended press conference on the US Capitol lawn. Disability advocates from around the country rallied in support. Paul J Tobin, President of United Spinal Association, joined disability advocacy leaders on stage after speaking to the crowd at the annual National Conference on Independent Living rally.

07/10/2013: Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) has announced his official support of the Disabilities Treaty. Marca Bristo, CEO, Access Living Chicago, publicly thanked the Senator for his support in the Chicago Tribune.

04/23/2013: United Spinal President Paul Tobin, a Navy veteran, presents comments to the National Council on Disability in favor of Senate ratification of the Disabilities Treaty. Tobin states, “The Disabilities Treaty will allow veterans with disabilities to have greater opportunities to travel, work, study and live abroad.”

02/01/2013: The Disabilities Treaty is returned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is appointed Secretary of State and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) assumes leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

07/26/2012: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bi-partisan resolution of advice and consent to the Disabilities Treaty, sending it to be considered by the full Senate.

07/12/2012: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Disabilities Treaty.

05/17/2012: The Obama Administration submitted the treaty package to the Senate for ratification.