Remembering the Beginning of the End of Discrimination: 40 Years After the Rehab Act

Passed on September 26, 1973, the Rehabilitation Act finally gave citizens of the United States who were living with disabilities, protection from discrimination in all things involving government funding or service. An enormous grassroots mobilization on the part of many students with disabilities throughout the country played a critical role in enshrining such protections within the act. Those efforts formed Section 504 which enforces ‘Nondiscrimination Under Federal Grants’ and states that no ‘qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.’ Amazingly, this section is only one small part of the entire legislation which establishes, sets guidelines for, and funds the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). The RSA is responsible for providing vocational services to individuals with disabilities and provide them the services they need throughout their educational and vocational goals.

The Rehabilitation Act was later consolidated into the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 that provides for a number of workforce development and training programs and is not solely focused on discrimination or disability policy. it is extremely important to mention that the 113th Congress is currently in the midst of negotiating a new and updated reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. Recently, the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) passed its version of a 2013 Workforce Investment Act, entitled Senate Bill 1356 (S. 1356). The new bill updates and revises the 15-year-old law and accommodates for many changes in the structure and environment of vocational rehabilitation as well as how services will be provided in corporation with the RSA and Independent Living Centers.  In the turbulence of current events it is difficult to follow and keep track of so many important topics that may range from how healthcare is provided to when and where our country’s armed services are deployed. This is yet another opportunity for individuals to insure their voices are heard on Capitol Hill. Please join the many advocacy organizations struggling to project their voices of support for a new Workforce Investment Act and the protection of the nondiscrimination values that were enshrined in the Rehabilitation Act 40 years ago today.

Read the rehabilitation act of 1973 as passed:


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