Examining 50 Years of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – Section 504

Rehabilitation Act, 50, Advancing Access and Equity - Then, Now and Next

Signed 50 years ago, the Rehabilitation Act was the first federal law to address civil rights for people with disabilities, and it had a profound impact.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by any program or activity that is federally funded or conducted. It applies to publicly funded workforce services—such as those provided by the nationwide network of American Job Centers overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor.

But Section 504’s impact also lies in the fact that it laid the foundation for more comprehensive legislation to come—the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During Disability Pride Month each July, we celebrate the anniversary of the ADA, which was signed on July 26, 1990.

Both the Rehabilitation Act and ADA were the result of tireless efforts on the part of many advocates, organizations and allies who fought to ensure the next generation of people with disabilities had greater access and equity across all sectors of society, including the workplace.

Recently, we had the opportunity to hear from a diversity of perspectives from — Cecilia Grugan, Alexis “Zandy” Wong, Jalyn Radziminski and Misha Nicholas—who represent the “ADA generation” and are carrying on a legacy of leadership in advancing access and equity. In this video, hear what they had to say about the importance of both laws, to them individually and society at large.