Key U.S. Disability Legislation

In the past three decades there have been numerous laws and regulations passed to both prevent discrimination based upon disability and also support such individuals with special needs. Here are three key acts to introduce you to the topic:

  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 protects against discrimination based upon mental or physical disability from organization that receive federal funding. Section 508 additionally requires accessible information technology. (1)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: prohibits discriminate solely on the basis of disability in employment, public services, and accommodations. (2)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): embraces children with special needs in education. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth – 2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. (3)

Please see “A Guide to Disability Rights Laws” (September 2005) at Disability.gov for more information about these and other disability laws.


(1) United States Access Board. The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1973, as amended. [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://access-board.gov/enforcement/rehab-act-text/intro.htm.

(2) United States Department of Justice. AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990, AS AMENDED. 2009 [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm.

(3) National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. IDEA—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://nichcy.org/laws/idea.

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