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U.N. pact for rights of disabled comes into force

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A U.N. convention aimed at ensuring equal rights for the world's 650 million disabled people in work, education and social life recently came into force.

The pact, the first of its kind and billed by the United Nations as the first new human rights treaty of the 21st Century, took effect 30 days after being ratified by 20 countries that have signed it. That figure has since risen to 25, but does not include the United States and Russia.

The 32-page U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities outlaws all forms of discrimination at work on the basis of disability, including in hiring, promotion and working conditions. It requires equal pay for work of equal value.

The pact stipulates that the disabled may not be excluded from mainstream education systems. It demands that governments provide them with physical access to transportation, schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces.

It also calls on signatory states to promote the employment of disabled people, including through 'affirmative action' programs that favor them.

So far, 127 of the 192 U.N. member states have signed the convention. But only just over half of those have signed an annex allowing individuals and groups

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