Disability and Civil Rights Laws

Rehabilitation Act (Sections 508, 504, 501)

In 1998 the US Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. It 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.

    • 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
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency. 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. (HHS.gov Fact Sheet)
    • Section 508 establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities (PWD), and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990

  • Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government programs, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

Telecommunications Act (Section 255) 1996

  • Requires Telecommunications companies and service providers to make their products /services accessible to PWD.

21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

    • Increases Access to Modern Communications by PWD.
    • TV, DVD, IPTV, Video, VoIP, Conferencing, Messaging

Office of the Chief Information Officer
U.S. Department of Commerce

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Page last updated August 8, 2014