Forty Years Later: The Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act

September 26th, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also known as the RehabAct.  The RehabAct was sponsored by Representative John Brademas [IN-3] and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.  The Federal legislation authorized the formulation of grant programs in vocational rehabilitation (Title I), supported employment (VI), independent living (Title VII), and client assistance.  Additionally, the sections of the Rehab Act Title II authorized research activities administrated by National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) through the U.S. Department of Education and the work of the National Council on Disability under Title IV.  Finally, the Rehab Act also includes a variety of provisions focused on rights, advocacy, and protections for individuals with disabilities under Title V most notably with Sections 501, 503, 504, 508, and 509.

Section 501 – Requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch. To obtain more information or to file a complaint, employees should contact their agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

Section 503 – Requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.

Section 504 – States that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.  Each Federal agency has its own set of Section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have Section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities, program accessibility, effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter before going to court.

Section 508 – Establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.

The afore mentioned information obtained from

Section 509 – Establishes a support system in each State protect the legal and human rights of individuals with disabilities who need services that are beyond the scope of services authorized to be provided by client assistance programs, under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance Bill of Rights, or under the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act (

The Rehab Act was one of the first comprehensive pieces of disability legislation followed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.  The rights and protections outlined within have improved the lives of people with disabilities by attempting to level the playing field for in the areas of employment, living independently in the community, access to electronic information and technology, and research focused specifically on the unique needs of the disability population.  Forty years later the Rehab Act remains a relevant piece of legislation and a benchmark for United Nations disability treaty the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

On Wednesday, September 25th, 1:00-2:00 PM EDT the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (@EEOC_OFO) and the U.S. Department of Labor (@USDOL) will host in a live Twitter Chat in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Rehabilitation Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified employee or applicant with a disability in the federal government and in federal contracts and subcontracts. Tweet using the hashtag #RehabAct to join the discussion or to submit your questions in advance. You can also submit questions by emailing them to

For more information on Section 503, contact the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor by phone 202/693-0106 (V/TTY) or visit their website at

For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division at 800/514-0301 (V) or 800/514-0383 (TTY) or visit their website at

For more information on Section 508, contact the U.S. General Services Administration,
Office of Government-wide Policy IT Accessiblity & Workflow Division (ITAW) at 202/501-4906 (V) or visit their website at

About cgraves34

Media Specialist for the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) through Administration for Community Living (ACL) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
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2 Responses to Forty Years Later: The Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act

  1. Pingback: Hispanic Heritage Month: Traumatic Brain Injury Model System | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  2. Pingback: The Rehab Act Turns 43 | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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