Understanding the Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was one of the first significant efforts by Congress to level the playing field for people with disabilities. It replaced the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and extended and revised the authorization of grants to states for vocational rehabilitation services, particularly to those with severe disabilities. It also expanded special Federal responsibilities and research and training programs with respect to individuals with disabilities and established special responsibilities in the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare for coordination of all programs with respect for those with disabilities in those departments.

The act was passed to help those with disabilities continue to work, pursue independent living, self-determination, and inclusion in U.S. society. Prior to the passing of the act, employers could discriminate against people with disabilities because of those disabilities.

The act itself consists of several sections, including the following:

Section 501

This section requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch.

Section 503

This section requires affirmative action and prohibits discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.

Section 504

This section created and extended civil rights to those with disabilities. These rights include opportunities in education, employment, and various other settings, such as reasonable accommodations. Each Federal agency has its own set of Section 504 regulations, but they cover reasonable accommodations for employees and students with disabilities (for example, program accessibility, effective communication for those with hearing or vision disabilities, and accessible new construction).

Section 505

This section concerns provisions and enforcement procedures for title V of the act. It makes sure the procedures and rights in Section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shall be available with respect to any complaint under Section 501. Likewise, any person alleging a violation of Section 504 is eligible to the rights and procedures in title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Section 508

This section establishes the requirements for electronic and information technology (IT) developed, maintained, used, or procured by the Federal government. Any of this technology must be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. For example, a system that provides an output only in visual format, such as a website, may not be accessible to people with visual impairments. This section also directed The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board to create binding, enforceable standards that clearly outline and identify exactly what the law means by “accessible” electronic and IT products. The Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee was created to help make the first set of accessibility standards for Federal Electronics and IT Products and publish them in late 2000.

Any violations of the Rehabilitation Act is overseen by The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights. When people have complaints of Rehabilitation Act violations, they can file an administrative complaint with agencies they believe to be in violation of the act. They can also file a private lawsuit in federal district court or file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights.

If you believe your rights have been violated, don’t hesitate to call us. Shellist Lazarz Slobin is a firm dedicated to helping employers and employees alike seek justice. Our Houston employment law attorneys work hard to obtain the best outcome possible for our clients. Our track record demonstrates significant successes in the past, including a $1.3 million whistleblower verdict against the City of Houston, believed to be one of the largest of such verdicts in the city to date.

Call us or fill out our online form to schedule an initial consultation with our skilled attorneys today. Let us see what we can do for you.

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