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Monday, August 3, 2009

U.S signs the U.N. Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

On July 30, 2009, the United States became one of 142 countries that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of this 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.” Notable with respect to the rights of students with disabilities is the following:

*In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Article 7, §2.

*States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning directed to “the full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity” and
the “development by persons with disabilities of their personality, talents and creativity, as well as their mental and physical abilities, to their fullest potential.” Article 24, §1.

*Effective individualized support measures are provided in environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion. Article 24, §2.

*Signatory nations (i.e. the U.S. and others) agree to “adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention” and “to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities”

Thus, our country has made a commitment to the world at large that we will engage in a course of conduct that, inter alia, maximizes the academic development of children with disabilities. Therefore, arguably, any decision made, subsequent to the signing of this convention, that enforces the traditional, overly restrictive, access only interpretation of Rowley, would be at odds with this commitment that we as a nation have made to maximize, rather than to merely provide an opportunity to acquire meaningful benefit.