Nearly three years after signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Obama administration is asking the U.S. Senate to grant final approval of the treaty.
The United States signed the convention in 2009, but Senate approval is required in order to make participation official.
The convention is designed to expand community access and improve the standard of living for the estimated 650 million people around the world with disabilities. It is the first new human rights convention this century.
President Barack Obama officially sent the treaty to the Senate Thursday and asked lawmakers to ratify it.
“The rights of Americans with disabilities should not end at our nation’s shores,” Obama wrote in his request to the Senate. “Ratification of the disabilities convention by the United States would position the United States to occupy the global leadership role to which our domestic record already attests.”
It is customary for the administration to fully vet any treaty before it is transmitted to the Senate for approval, which accounts for the years that have passed since the convention was initially signed.
However, in recent weeks disability advocates had called upon Obama to act. That’s because the U.N. is expected to establish a committee in September to oversee the convention. If Senate approval does not occur before that time, the U.S. would not be eligible to join the inaugural leadership team.
“We would lose a huge opportunity to influence the committee,” said Jennifer Dexter, assistant vice president of government relations at Easter Seals.
Dexter says her group and others are now prepared to start lobbying the Senate for swift ratification.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities originated in 2007. When the U.S. signed the treaty in 2009, it was the 142nd country to do so.