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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Disabilities Treaty: Opening the World to Americans with Disabilities


"This is about projecting U.S. leadership. It's about helping our veterans, promoting our values and our companies. This treaty doesn't change America. It's about America changing the world.”
- Secretary of State John Kerry

Ratification of the Disabilities Treaty will:

  • Open the world for the millions of disabled Americans wanting to serve, study, work, and travel abroad
  • Promote American businesses, and
  • Reinforce American leadership on disabilities rights

Twenty-three years ago, the United States became the first country in the world to adopt national civil rights legislation banning discrimination against disabled people. Since that time, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has had a profound impact both at home and abroad. Here in the United States, the ADA, in tandem with other disability legislation, has led to the inclusion of disabled people in all areas of life. Internationally, the ADA has long been regarded as the gold standard for disability rights. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“Disabilities Treaty”) embodies, at the international level, the ADA principles of non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility and inclusion.

Date: 05/20/2013 Description: Disability rights leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Tajikistan, and Uganda worked with NGOs, universities, and government offices in the U.S. to address challenges facing persons with disabilities in their home communities.  In this photo, Parkhat Yussupjanov from Kazakhstan claps during the Washington, DC Empower Access Program Orientation. - State Dept Image

Over 130 countries have joined the Disabilities Treaty, which is now the primary mechanism through which countries are working to ensure that disabled people have full access to their communities, and that the deplorable abuses threatening the lives of disabled adults and children are addressed.

The challenge now is to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Treaty for the benefit of the world’s one billion disabled people. This includes over 50 million Americans with disabilities, of which approximately 5.5 million are American veterans with disabilities, who wish to serve, study, work and travel overseas.

In meeting this challenge, the United States will continue its long-standing engagement with other countries through bilateral diplomacy and foreign assistance. However, this is no longer enough. The center of gravity for disability rights at the international level has shifted to the Disabilities Treaty. Americans with disabilities deserve to have their government fully engaged in advancing their rights. That can only happen if the United States joins the Treaty.


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