National Council on Disability – Public Forum on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
April 22, 2013

Public Forum on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Tuesday, April 23, 9:30 – 10 a.m.
Access Board Conference Room
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
78 Federal Register 20957

Tomorrow, the National Council on Disability will accept public comments in person on how the Council should engage on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). See the announcement in the Federal Register for additional opportunities for public comments on all topics in person or by phone during their quarterly meeting this afternoon and tomorrow.

Below are a few articles of the Convention relevant to the policy areas of the ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, as well as some existing U.S. federal laws that implement these articles. These highlights are not intended to be comprehensive.

• Accessibility of Information and Communication Technologies

Article 9 calls upon countries to “promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet” and to “promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early state so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.”

Article 21 requires countries to take appropriate measures to ensure access to information “on an equal basis with others.” This includes, in part, providing accessible information and technologies without additional costs.

The U.S. government complies with these requirements mainly through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

• Accessible Voting Technologies

Article 29 guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to participate in political and public life, including voting. A reservation to the treaty says that U.S. implementation of the treaty is subject to the U.S. federal system. This treaty reservation supports states and local governments within the United States retaining the right over issues covered by the treaty and conferred to states, such as voting.

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

• Intellectual Property

Article 30 requires countries to take “all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.”

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through exceptions to the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The U.S. also would rely on international treaties, such as those adopted under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), when interpreting obligations under this article and compliance under international law.

• Privacy

Article 22 requires that countries shall not subject persons with disabilities “to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence or other types of communication.” This language is a variation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the U.S. is already a Party and thus bound by its legal obligations. ICCPR Article 17 reads, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” CRPD Article 22 also requires countries to “protect the privacy of personal, health and rehabilitation information of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through the privacy of health records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A reservation to the treaty related to federalism allows states to enact greater privacy protections.

Full-text of the CRPD is available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml