Rehabilitation Act of 1973
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|Long title||An Act to replace the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, to extend and revise the authorization of grants to States for vocational rehabilitation services, with special emphasis on services to those with the most severe disabilities, to expand special Federal responsibilities and research and training programs with respect to individuals with disabilities, to establish special responsibilities in the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare for coordination of all programs with respect to individuals with disabilities within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and for other purposes.|
|Enacted by||the 93rd United States Congress|
|Effective||September 26, 1973|
|Public law||Pub. L. 93-112|
|Statutes at Large||87 Stat. 355|
|Acts amended||Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973|
|U.S.C. sections created||29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.|
|U.S.C. sections amended||31-41c|
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (Pub.L. 93–112, 87 Stat. 355, enacted September 26, 1973), is a federal law, codified as 29 U.S.C. § 701. The principal sponsor of the bill was Rep. John Brademas [IN-3]. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 replaces the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to extend and revise the authorization of grants to States for vocational rehabilitation services, with special emphasis on services to those with the most severe disabilities, to expand special Federal responsibilities and research and training programs with respect to individuals with disabilities, to establish special responsibilities in the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare for coordination of all programs with respect to individuals with disabilities within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and for other purposes.
Significant amendments were made to the Rehabilitation Act in 1974. The most important was the expansion of the definition of “handicapped individual.” Section 111, Pub L. 93-516, Dec. 7, 1974. The original 1973 Act defined a “handicapped individual” as “any individual who (A) has a physical or mental disability which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial handicap to employment and (B) can reasonably be expected to benefit in terms of employability from vocational rehabilitation services provided pursuant to titles I and III of this Act.” Section 7(6), Pub. L. 93-112. The 1974 amendments substituted a much broader definition of “handicapped individual” applicable to employment by the federal government (Section 501), modification or elimination of architectural and transportation barriers (Section 502), employment by federal contractors (section 503) and to programs receiving federal financial assistance (Section 504) that was not related to employability through vocational rehabilitation services. The 1974 amendments provided a handicapped individual meant “any person who (A) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (B) has a record of such an impairment, or (C) is regarded as having such an impairment.” Congress adopted that definition in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, substituting the term “disability” for “handicapped.” Section 3(2), Pub. L. 101-336, July 26, 1990. The Rehabilitation Act requires affirmative action in employment by the federal government and by government contractors and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance, in federal employment, and in the employment practices of federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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 504 of the Rehabilitation Act created and extended civil rights to people with disabilities. Section 504 has provided opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in education, employment and various other settings. It allows for reasonable accommodations such as special study area and assistance as necessary for each student. 
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.
An accessible information technology system is one that can be operated in a variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or ability of the user. For example, a system that provides output only in visual format may not be accessible to people with visual impairments, and a system that provides output only in audio format may not be accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some individuals with disabilities may need accessibility-related software or peripheral devices in order to use systems that comply with Section 508.
List of court cases
- Switzer, Jacqueline Vaughn. Disabled Rights: American Disability Policy and the Fight for Equality. Georgetown University Press, 2003.
- OCR Senior Staff Memoranda, “Guidance on the Application of Section 504 to Noneducational Programs of Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance,” January 3, 1990.
- Lynch, William, "The Application of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Internet: Proper E-Planning Prevents Poor E-Performance," 12 CommLaw Conspectus: Journal of Communications Law and Policy 245 (2004).