Civil Rights Laws
Before turning to the Rehabilitation Act, a chronological listing and brief description of important federal civil rights laws affecting people with disabilities is in order.
- Civil Rights Act: prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, and creed — later, gender was added as a protected class.
- Architectural Barriers Act: prohibits architectural barriers in all federally owned or leased buildings.
- Urban Mass Transit Act: requires that all new mass transit vehicles be equipped with wheelchair lifts. As mentioned earlier, it was twenty years, primarily because of machinations of the American Public Transit Association (APTA), before the part of the law requiring wheelchair lifts was implemented.
- Rehabilitation Act: particularly Title V, Sections 501, 503, and 504, prohibits discrimination in federal programs and services and all other programs or services receiving federal funding.
- Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights Act: among other things, establishes Protection and Advocacy (P & A).
- Education of All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142): requires free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible for children with disabilities. This law is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act: provides for consumer-controlled centers for independent living.
- Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act: provides for the Client Assistance Program (CAP), an advocacy program for consumers of rehabilitation and independent living services.
- Mental Illness Bill of Rights Act: requires protection and advocacy services (P & A) for people with mental illness.
- Civil Rights Restoration Act: counteracts bad case law by clarifying Congress’ original intention that under the Rehabilitation Act, discrimination in ANY program or service that is a part of an entity receiving federal funding — not just the part which actually and directly receives the funding — is illegal.
- Air Carrier Access Act: prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and provides for equal access to air transportation services.
- Fair Housing Amendments Act: prohibits discrimination in housing against people with disabilities and families with children. Also provides for architectural accessibility of certain new housing units, renovation of existing units, and accessibility modifications at the renter’s expense.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: provides comprehensive civil rights protection for people with disabilities; closely modeled after the Civil Rights Act and the Section 504 of Title V of the Rehabilitation Act and its regulations.
The modern history of civil rights for people with disabilities is three decades old. An essential piece of this decades-long process is the story of how the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was finally passed and then implemented. It is the story of the first organized disability rights protest.
Continue to The Rehabilitation Act of 1973