The Rehabilitation Act 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.
On September 24, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs published a Final Rule in the Federal Register revising the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Section 503) at 41 CFR Part 60–741. The regulations became effective on March 24, 2014.
Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities (IWDs), and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals. As revised, the regulations strengthen the affirmative action provisions to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire IWDs, and improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The regulations also include changes to the nondiscrimination provisions to bring them into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008.
Section 504 states that “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.
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.
For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:
Disability Rights Section Mailing Address
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section – NYA
Washington, D.C. 20530
Section Phone Number: 202-307-0663
Section Fax Number: 202-307-1197
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d))
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)) applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others. The United States Access Board discusses the Section 508 law and its responsibility for developing accessibility standards for EIT to incorporate into regulations that govern federal procurement practices.
NEW: 508 Standards Refresh
On January 18, 2017 the Access Board issued a final rule that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule also refreshes guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT. In fact, the rule references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 (link is external) and applies them not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software. For more information, the Access Board has published an Overview of the Final Rule. Over the next several months, the US Access Board, in partnership with the General Services Administration, will provide guidance on the standards and on how to implement them within the federal government. This guidance will be published on the Section508.gov website when available.
For more information on section 508, contact:
U.S. General Services Administration
Office of Government-wide Policy IT Accessibility & Workflow Division (ITAW)
1800 F Street, N.W.
Room 2222 – MEC:ITAW
Washington, DC 20405-0001
U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111