Having a physical disability profoundly disconnects a person from the world in which the able-bodied live and move, and makes a challenge out of numerous mundane tasks. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed more than two decades ago, prohibits many forms of discrimination against the disabled and mandates that they be provided with equal access to buildings, workplaces, programs, services and public accommodations.
The federal law was the model for the United Nations treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires participating countries to provide equal access for the disabled. To date, 133 countries and the European Union have ratified it. Yet astonishingly, the United States is not among them. Last December, the Senate fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty, blocked by GOP senators who read into its broad language, variously, a potential ban on home schooling, a right to abortion and other mandates they said might threaten U.S. sovereignty. These contentions are inaccurate. In general, the treaty does not even go as far as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is already the law of this land.
The treaty calls for "an inclusive education system" and addresses the "best interests" of disabled children. It says nothing about home schooling. Nor does it mention abortion. It merely says that the disabled should be provided with the same range of healthcare options available to other people, "including in the area of sexual and reproductive health." The drafters of the treaty wanted to ensure that the disabled were not denied access to procedures, or forced into sterilizations, abortions or removal of organs, as has sometimes been the practice.