My Take on the CRPD vs. Marrakesh Treaty

September 24, 2018 | Chris Damon-Chronmiller, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern

The following is a culmination of the work I have done this summer as part of my internship with AAPD.  Through my internship this summer, I became aware of an international agreement of sorts known as the Marrakesh Treaty. This agreement aims to improve access to print documents for print-impaired individuals.  To my surprise, I learned that not only did it have bipartisan support, but that it passed unanimously without amendment.  Needless to say this is starkly different from my previous experience with international agreements.

Back in my undergraduate career I held an internship with the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD), and I interned for them again briefly when I was in graduate school.  When I first worked with USICD, one of their top priorities was centered around the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which President Obama had signed in 2009.  Like the Marrakesh treaty, the CRPD also had bipartisan support, with loud champions from both sides of the political aisle. Furthermore, in the words of USICD, the U.S.’s own Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) served as the direct inspiration for the work of the CRPD, which arguably serves to expand the ADA internationally – resulting in easier international travel and ability to work overseas for Americans with disabilities.  However, in 2012, U.S. support for the CRPD fell short of the super majority typically required for ratification of treaties when it came to vote.

Why, then, did the U.S. support one agreement with flying colors while taking such a reserved stance on the other?  The simple answer is that one is affiliated with the United Nations, and the other is affiliated with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  In my opinion, though, the more complicated answer is that the CRPD opens up a can of worms that the disability community long thought had been buried with the passage of the ADA.  In particular there are some concerns considering health that plague (no pun intended) both pieces of legislation. With the ADA, it was the predicament of whether HIV/AIDS constituted a class that deserved protection. Now, with the CRPD, the supposed question is whether persons with disabilities are granted special access to abortion services.  The question as to the ethics of abortion as a whole is one that I am simply not equipped to answer or address, but that is what some advocates are focused on.

It probably goes without saying that this post is a gross oversimplification of the issues surrounding the Marrakesh treaty and the CRPD, along with my opinion on both.  I look forward to devoting further analysis on the topic in my spare time.


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Chris Damon-Cronmiller is a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. He interned with the Office of Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).

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