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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > Rehabilitation Act Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 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. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act
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 503 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 503 requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000. For more information on Section 503, contact:

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Room C-3325
Washington, D.C. 20210
202-693-0106 (voice/relay)


Helpful Resources
A Guide to Disability Rights Law


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 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. Read Section 504 in its entirety.

Each federal agency has its own set of Section 504 regulations that apply to its programs. 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. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a federal agency or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter before going to court.

For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY) Source:

Section 504 and Health Care
Section 504 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, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These organizations and employers include many hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers and human service programs.

Prohibited Discriminatory Acts in Health Care and Human Services Settings
Section 504 prohibitions against discrimination apply to service availability, accessibility, delivery, employment and the administrative activities and responsibilities of organizations receiving federal financial assistance. A recipient of federal financial assistance may not, on the basis of disability:

  • Deny qualified individuals the opportunity to participate in or benefit from federally funded programs, services or other benefits.
  • Deny access to programs, services, benefits or opportunities to participate as a result of physical barriers.
  • Deny employment opportunities, including hiring, promotion, training and fringe benefits, for which they are otherwise entitled or qualified...

These and other prohibitions against discrimination based on disability can be found in the DHHS Section 504 regulation at 45 CFR Part 84.

For information on how to file a complaint of discrimination, or to obtain information of a civil rights nature, please contact us. OCR employees will make every effort to provide prompt service.

Hotlines: 800-368-1019 (voice)
1-800-537-7697 (TDD)
Web site:


Helpful Resources
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Section 504 and Education
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications.

Unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 does not require the school to provide an individualized educational program (IEP) that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and provides the child with educational benefit. Fewer procedural safeguards are available for disabled children and their parents under Section 504 than under IDEA.


Helpful Resources
Council of Educators of Students with Disabilities, Inc.
Wrightslaw: Section 504

Section 504 and Faith-Based and Community Organizations
It is especially important for faith-based and community organizations to integrate people with disabilities into their programs and activities to ensure all members of the community are able to get involved.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires recipients of federal financial assistance, including faith-based and community organizations, to take certain positive actions to make their facilities and services accessible and available to people with disabilities.

Helpful Resources
Demystifying Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act


In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals.

The law applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology. These federal agencies ensure that this technology allows:

  • Federal employees with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that by federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency
  • Individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a federal agency, to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities.

Helpful Resources
The General Services Administration (GSA) - Section 508
Access-Board - Section 508

Source: ITTATC,

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, or U.S. Access Board, was charged with developing technical and functional provisions to establish a minimum level of accessibility. These technology-specific provisions address:

  • Software applications and operating systems
  • Web-based information or applications
  • Telecommunications products
  • Video or multimedia products
  • Self-contained, closed products such as information kiosks and transaction machines
  • Desktop and portable computers

They also address compatibility with assistive technologies that some people with disabilities use for information and communication access.

View the Section 508: Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards.

Source: ITTATC

Section 508 uses the federal procurement process to ensure that technology acquired by the federal government is accessible. The law also sets up an administrative process under which individuals with disabilities can file a complaint alleging that a federal agency has not complied with the standards. This process uses the same complaint procedures established under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (which covers access to federally funded programs and services). Individuals may also file a civil action against an agency to seek injunctive relief and attorney's fees (but not compensatory or punitive damages). The enforcement provisions of section 508 are effective as of June 21, 2001.

By statute, the enforcement provisions of Section 508 apply only to electronic and information technology procured on or after the effective date. As a result, Section 508 does not authorize complaints or lawsuits to retrofit technology procured before this date to meet the board's standards. However, even though Section 508's enforcement mechanisms apply only to procurement, the law does require access to technology developed, used or maintained by a federal agency.

"Undue Burden"
A federal agency does not have to comply with the technology accessibility standards if it would impose an undue burden to do so. This is consistent with language used in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights legislation, where the term `undue burden' has been defined as "significant difficulty or expense." However, the agency must explain why meeting the standards would pose an undue burden for a given procurement action, and must still provide people with disabilities access to the information or data that is affected.


Filing a Complaint

  • Build and document your case, including:
    • Your name, address, telephone/TTY number and e-mail address
    • Name and address of the federal agency
    • A detailed description of the product or service that is inaccessible
    • The date you became aware of the inaccessible product or service
    • A detailed description of the inaccessible features or functions, including exactly what happens and does not happen
    • Suggestions for improvement
    • Assistive technology you use with this product or service, such as the name and version of your screen reading software
  • Contact the Section 508 coordinator for the applicable agency and find out to register a complaint
    • Section 508 Coordinator List
  • Follow the agency's specific procedures
    • Under Section 508, each agency develops procedures for handling complaints