The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday adopted a treaty to protect the rights of the world's 600 million disabled people.
The convention requires countries to guarantee disabled people freedom from exploitation and abuse, while protecting such rights as education, healthcare and work. It advocates keeping the disabled in their communities, rather than removing and educating them separately, as many nations do.
The treaty was adopted by consensus at a plenary meeting of the 192-nation General Assembly. To take effect, it has to be ratified by the legislatures of 20 countries.
In August, agreement was reached on a way to ensure that treaty conditions would be met. But some members were critical of the compromise that ruled out visits by a human rights panel.
New Zealand Ambassador Don MacKay, who chaired the committee that drafted the convention, said his government was confident that the measure would "make a difference to the 10% of the world's population that lives with a disability."
Theoretically, there should be no need for a treaty because people with disabilities are included in existing human rights conventions, MacKay said.
"The reality, unfortunately, has not followed the theory. The existing human rights instruments have fallen far short in their protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed to persons with disabilities," he said.