Rick Santorum’s Most Recent Enemy? Millions of Disabled People Around the World

by Lainey Feingold, 2012-12-03

On Tuesday, December 4th, the United States Senate can join over 120 other countries and ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Supporters of the treaty span almost the entire political spectrum – President Obama, Senate Democrats, the U.S. disability community, 21 faith organizations, 30 veteran organizations, movie critic Roger Ebert, and the U.S Chamber of Commerce and former president George HW Bush, to name just a few. (Read the full list of key endorsers.) Who’s missing? The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. Led by Rick Santorum and Tea Party front group Patriot Voice, the far right threatens to derail years of work by human and civil rights activists around the world. The CRPD vote will be a showdown between Tea Party activists and those who believe people with disabilities around the world deserve education, employment, and basic civil rights.

The CRPD is a treaty that describes the obligations of ratifying countries to promote, protect, and fulfill the rights of persons with disabilities. It speaks of access to justice, freedom from torture, access to transportation, education and technology, the rights of children, women, and of people with disabilities everywhere to live full and productive lives in the 21st century. Read the treaty.

The CRPD has been ratified by over 120 countries from A (Afghanistan) to Z (Zambia) and those in between (including France, United Kingdom, South Africa and Argentina). Read the full list of ratifying countries.

The CRPD embodies principles already incorporated in United States law in the Americans with Disabilities Act and elsewhere. If ratified, it would not change U.S. law and won’t cost the United States one penny.

But you wouldn’t know that from Tea Party chatter. Santorum and his buddies have set up a website to stop Senate ratification of the CRPD, and his tweets with #CRPD threaten to overwhelm the robust pro-CRPD Twitter campaign organized by disability rights activists. As usual, the Tea Party spin – that the CRPD will interfere with parental and “sovereign” rights – is patently false. Unfortunately, the misinformation spouted by the opposition seems to be gaining ground, and Tuesday’s Yes vote is at risk.

The disability community and its allies are moving full throttle to get the votes needed to ratify this basic human rights treaty. Supporters are urged to contact the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121. The Senators too on the fence for comfort are Isakson (GA), Chambliss (GA), Grassley (IA), Moran (KS), Blunt (MO), Heller (NV), Hutchison (TX), Hatch (UT) and Portman (OH). Tweets to #CRPD will help drown out Santorum nonsense.

Monday, December 3, has long been recognized by the United Nations as The International Day of Persons with Disabilities. What better recognition of that day in 2012 than a “yes” vote on the CRPD by the United States Senate.


Lainey Feingold is a disability rights lawyer in Berkeley, California. You can follow her on Twitter at @LFLegal.