Disability issues topped the agenda on Capitol Hill this week as members of the U.S. Senate convened two hearings focusing on the rights of those with special needs.
While a Senate panel considered ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Thursday morning, a separate committee met in the same building to consider legislation that would regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.
The hearings marked the first time that either issue was taken up by the body.
Consideration of the U.N. Convention comes nearly two months after President Barack Obama sent senators the international treaty, which calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for the estimated 650 million people around the world with disabilities.
Disability Scoop- (July 13, 2012)-Already 153 countries have signed the disability convention and 117 have ratified it, according to the U.N. While the United States signed on in 2009, Senate approval is needed to make participation official.
The convention has broad support with over 165 organizations urging ratification and the backing of a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., both of whom spoke at the hearing.
“(The treaty) will provide the United States with a critical platform from which to urge other countries to improve equality of individuals with disabilities, including Americans who travel or live abroad, and including children with disabilities, whose plight is particularly neglected in many parts of the world,” Judith Heumann, special adviser for international disability rights at the U.S. Department of State told the Senate committee.