Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Deaf Children
The Rehabilitation Act (Public Law 93-112), first signed into law in 1973 and recently reauthorized in 2004, supports and promotes the rights of individuals with disabilities. Through its continued reauthorization, the Act seeks to:
- Empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self‑sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society through state-sponsored vocational rehabilitation programs, community-based rehabilitation centers, independent living centers and client assistance programs (Title 1)
- Authorize the conduct of research and training activities in the field of disabilities (Title 2)
- Support the continued professional development of those who provide services to and the establishment of special projects and demonstration programs benefiting individuals with disabilities (Title 3)
- Justify the creation of the National Council on Disabilities to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures as promulgated by this Act (Title 4)
- Ensure that the federal government leads the nation in providing employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities in its different agencies, and in programs receiving federal financial assistance, and prohibits the practice of discrimination on the basis of disability in all levels of the federal government (Title 5).
Title 5 is divided into eight sections. Four sections are most relevant to deaf and hard of hearing individuals:
· Section 501 (Employment of Individuals with Disabilities) requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch.
· Section 503 (Employment under Federal Contracts) requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.
· Section 504 (Nondiscrimination under Federal Grants and Programs) 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,
· Section 508 (Electronic and Information Technology) establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public
Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act give deaf and hard of hearing children the right to full access to school and public activities and events, including after-school events. Some parents also choose not to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for their child and instead have their child's school provide services under Section 504.
The two other parts of the Rehabilitation Act, Title 6 (Employment of Individuals with Disabilities) and Title 7 (Independent Living Centers), provide more detailed explanations of what the Act promulgates.