United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Some Questions and Answers about the CRPD

“The purpose of the . . . Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”  (CRPD Article I)

Background:  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations

(UN) on December 13, 2006 and opened for signature on March 30, 2007.  To date, 153 States (nations) have signed it and 90 have ratified (approved) it.  In the U.S. the CRPD was signed by President Obama on July 30, 2009 and submitted to the U.S. Senate on May 17, 2012 for ratification.  On July 26, 2012 (the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)), the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted to send the CRPD to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it be ratified.  Ratification will require a “yes” vote from 67 out of the 100 Senate members.

Q1.  Will the CRPD require the U.S. to change the implementation of its discrimination laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the ADA? 

A1.  No.  The CRPD is not “self-executing,” “thus would not be directly enforced by U.S. courts or of itself give rise to individually enforceable rights”  (Executive Summary, U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Treaty Doc. 112-7, page 2).  The CRPD does nothing to change the implementation of existing American law. 

Q2.  Will the CRPD require the U.S. to change the content of any of its laws?

A2.  No.  “[E]xisting law and practice would be sufficient to implement the convention fully in the United States (Executive Summary, page 3).  The CRPD would not require the US to change the content of any of its laws.

Q3.  If our country’s laws and practices around disability rights will remain the same, what is the advantage to Americans of having the CRPD?

A3.  “While Americans with disabilities already enjoy these rights at home, U.S. citizens and other individuals with disabilities frequently face barriers when they travel, work, serve, study, and reside in other countries. The rights of Americans with disabilities should not end at our Nation’s shores. 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. We would thus seek to use the Convention as a tool through which to enhance the rights of Americans with disabilities, including our veterans”  (President Barack Obama, Letter of Transmittal, Treaty Doc. 112-7).

Q4.  Does the CRPD refer to sign language?

A4.  Yes.  For example:

“States Parties [nations] shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community.  To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

“. . . Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community . . .”  (CRPD Article 24, Section 3)

Q5.  Does this mean that the CRPD requires deaf and hard of hearing children to learn sign language?

A5.  No.  The CRPD requires States Parties to “ensur[e] that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development” (CRPD Article 24, Section 3).  Existing law would apply:

“Under the regulations implementing Section 504 [of the US Rehabilitation Act], which applies to educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, and Title II of the ADA, public elementary and secondary school systems must provide children with disabilities with a “free appropriate public education” that is designed to meet the individual needs of children with disabilities as adequately as the needs of non-disabled children are met”  (Executive Summary, page 54).

“In addition . . . since 1975, the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] . . . and its predecessors have required that the United States ensure the provision of a free, appropriate public education to each child with a disability who, because of that disability, needs special education and related services.  Through the IDEA, eligible children are entitled to appropriate special education and related services and supplementary aids and services . . .”

“The IDEA requires that, to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the individual child, he or she is educated in regular classes with nondisabled children and that removal from regular classes occurs only when education for the child with a disability cannot be satisfactorily achieved in the regular setting . . . An individualized education program team writes an individualized education program (IEP) that [among other things] identifies measurable annual academic and functional goals for the child . . . and a statement of the special education supplementary aids and services to be provided for the child”  (Executive Summary, page 55). 

The IEP team, which includes the child’s parents, individualizes educational services based on the child’s needs.  IDEA does not impose an obligation on IEP teams to include any services that are not agreed upon by the IEP team.

  Prepared by Barbara Raimondo, Esq.

July 2012

About American Society for Deaf Children

We believe deaf or hard-of-hearing children are entitled to full communication access in their home, school, and community. We also believe that language development, respect for the Deaf, and access to deaf and hard-of-hearing role models are important to assure optimal intellectual, social, and emotional development.  Read More


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