Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended

Main Content
  • Section 501 - Employment (29 USC § 791(b))
  • Section 503 - Federal Contracts (29 USC § 793(a))
  • Section 504 - Programs, Services and Activities (29 USC § 794)
  • Section 508 - Electronic and Information Technology (29 USC § 794d & 36 CFR Parts 1194)

Section 501 - Employment

29 USC § 791(b)

Enforcing Agency:
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 

Summary:
Requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch. 

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Section 503 - Federal Contracts

29 USC § 793(a)

Enforcing Agency:
Department of Labor 

Summary:
Requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000 

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Section 504 - Programs, Services and Activities

29 USC § 794

Over 95 implementing regulations for Federally conducted programs including:

  • FEMA:  44 CFR Part 16

Over 20 implementing regulations for Federally assisted programs including:

  • HHS: 45 CFR Part 84
  • HUD: 24 CFR Part 8
  • DoEd: 34 CFR Part 104
  • DoJ: 28 CFR §§ 42.501 et seq.

Enforcing Agencies:
Agency that provides the Federal financial assistance.

Summary:
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. 

Imposes nondiscrimination and accessibility requirements on all of the operations of Federal agencies, including any direct services they provide to the public or any programs that they specifically operate.   This includes any direct services provided by FEMA and the operations of FEMA itself.   

Any agency, organization, or person that receives any type of Federal financial assistance is covered by Section 504.  Federal financial assistance is defined very broadly.  For example, a private nonprofit organization that receives a Federal contract to provide services is covered by Section 504, as is an organization that receives free or subsidized use of Federal property, or is provided staff paid by a Federal agency.  Applies to organizations and entities that receive Federal monies distributed through state or local agencies (subrecipients).

Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to the operation of its own programs.  Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. 

Section 504 requires that both Federal agencies and those receiving Federal assistance ensure that their programs are usable and accessible to persons with disabilities, including making changes to policies, practices, procedures, and structures as a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities unless doing so would require a fundamental alteration of the program or constitute an undue financial and administrative burden. 

In addition, Section 504 requires effective communication with people who have communication disabilities including hearing, vision, or cognitive disabilities. 

New construction and altered facilities must also meet affirmative accessibility requirements and comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS).

To be protected by Section 504, one must have a disability.  An individual with a disability is defined by Section 504 as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. Section 504 does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

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Section 508 - Electronic and Information Technology

29 USC § 794d
36 CFR Parts 1194

Enforcing Agency:
Each Federal agency must have its own internal process in place to incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). 

Summary:
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.

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Last Updated: 
10/20/2012 - 12:00