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NCD celebrates 50 year anniversary of Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Rehabilitation Act 50 logo

Sept. 26, 2023

WASHINGTON–Today the National Council on Disability celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first civil rights legislation protecting disabled people from discrimination.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on Sept. 26, 1973, after he vetoed the legislation twice. It would be the precursor for future disibility rights protections, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Rehabilitation Act 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.

Section 504 of the Rehab Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity operated by recipients of federal funds.

Read the original text of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 here

NCD’s origins are tied to updates with the law. In 1978 Public Law 95-602 introduced a new Title IV, establishing an advisory council within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare called the National Council on the Handicapped. In 1984 amendments to the act signed by President Ronald Reagan as Public Law 98-221, NCD became an independent federal agency, with the purpose of promoting policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

To celebrate the anniversary, this afternoon NCD Chairman Andrés J. Gallegos will participate in a White House Disability Policy Forum celebrating the 50th anniversary with representatives across the federal government and disability advocates. The event at the Department of Education begins at 1:00 p.m. ET and will be livestreamed. Join the event via Zoom.

This week the Administration for Community Living holds two webinars on the Rehab Act:

Part 1: The Rehab Act at 50: Origins, Evolution, & Current Day takes place September 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Part 2: The Rehab Act at 50: Our Future — Youth and Young Adult Engagement and Involvement in Disability Advocacy takes place September 28 at 4 p.m. ET

An official website of the National Council on Disability