September 26, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the first civil rights legislation protecting disabled people from discrimination. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs receiving federal financial assistance or conducted by federal agencies, in federal employment, and in the employment practices of federal contractors. A powerful law in its own right, the Rehab Act also paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act and other advancements in disability rights.
In addition, the Rehab Act created the Independent Living Services program, the Centers for Independent Living program, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, all of which are part of ACL today.
While there is still work to be done, the law shepherded a new era in disability rights and it serves as a cornerstone in a foundation we continue to build upon today.
Throughout September, partners across the federal government and in the disability community are marking the anniversary of the Rehab Act with events, articles and more to explore where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going next. We'll add them to this page and share via ACL Updates -- be sure to check back often!
Upcoming Events (all times Eastern)
Rehabilitation Act 50th Anniversary Roundtable Discussion
The Senate Committee on Aging will host this event on September 27 from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM in SVC 200. Senator Casey will provide remarks. The event will be livestreamed and ASL and CART will be available.
Exploring the past, present, and future of independent living: A two-part series
The first webinar will focus on the origins, evolution and current-day implications of the Rehab Act by highlighting the stories of key leaders who took part in the advocacy and direct actions that made its passage possible. The second webinar will envision the future of the independent living movement by understanding the work of the next generation of youth and young leaders and how their voices and experiences are shaping its future.
Part 1: The Rehab Act at 50: Origins, Evolution, & Current Day
September 27 at 3:30 p.m. | Register for Part 1 of the ACL webinar series
Part 2: The Rehab Act at 50: Our Future — Youth and Young Adult Engagement and Involvement in Disability Advocacy
September 28 at 4 p.m. | Register for Part 2 of the ACL webinar series
Events earlier this month
These events have concluded, but we'll post links to recordings as they become available.
50th Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Past, Present and Future of Disability Rights in Housing
September 12 at 1 p.m.
Join the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) for his event will feature a panel discussion with disability rights leaders to examine the early days of the disability rights movement, successes, emerging issues, and the continued need for vigorous enforcement of fair housing and civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination against disabled people and ensure equal opportunity. Speakers include: disability rights attorney John Wodatch, who was the principal author of the first federal regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Regina Blye, Chief Policy and Program Officer for the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation; Sean Barrett, Program Analyst, Compliance and Disability Rights Division, HUD FHEO; and Jeanine Worden, Associate General Counsel for Fair Housing at HUD.
In-person registration has closed, but you can still register to participate virtually.
Commemorating the Rehabilitation Act: The Power of Independent Living & Employment
September 19 at 3 p.m
Join ACL's Disability Employment and Technical Assistance Center (DETAC) for a webinar that will focus on the power of the independent living movement in advancing disability employment. The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) and the RAMP Center for Independent Living will jointly reflect on successful strategies they adopted over the years to move people with disabilities out of institutions and to help them obtain and retain competitive, integrated employment. Register now.
Blogs & Materials
Examining 50 Years of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Blog Series: “Advancing Access and Equity: Then, Now and Next.”
Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), U.S. Department of Labor
- Section 508 Blog— ODEP Senior Policy Advisor Nathan Cunningham interviews Sachin Pavithran, Executive Director of the U.S. Access Board, about the impact of Section 508. Enacted to ensure federal agencies’ information and communications technology is accessible to people with disabilities, Section 508 is an important part of the Rehab Act.
- Section 501 Blog— ODEP Chief of Staff Anupa Iyer Geevarghese interviews Associate Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations Dexter Brooks and former EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum about Section 501 of the Rehab Act and its important role in increasing access and equity for disabled people.
- Section 504 Blog— ODEP interviewed four diverse young people about the importance of Section 504 of the Rehab Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each shared their perspective on how the laws have advanced access and equity for them individually and others with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by any program or activity that is federally funded or conducted, and it helped lay the foundation for the ADA.
The 50th Anniversary of The Rehabilitation Act: Past Present and Future (Video)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development honors the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act with this 30-minute video.
Get involved on social media using #RehabAct50. Spread the word about events this month and how you're observing this occasion.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy
- U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Southeast ADA Center's Section 540 at 50
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy for allowing us use of its anniversary banner.