Rehabilitation Act

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S.’s first major federal disability rights law, the Rehabilitation Act, passed on Sept. 26, 1973. The law, which set the stage for the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act works together with the ADA — which prohibits, among other things, employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector — and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community.

“None of these achievements would have happened without the relentless advocacy of disabled people,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement celebrating the anniversary. “Led by people like the late Judy Heumann, whose tenacity and total commitment to the rights of people with disabilities led her to become known as ‘the mother’ of the disability rights movement people with disabilities, their families, and other advocates came together and changed our country in a fundamental way.  ”

The U.S. Dept. of Labor has put out this handy video to help you learn more about the act’s impact then and now:

And in celebration of the act, The ARC has posted these helpful articles:

Photo: Mikhail Nilov via

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