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Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sections 503 and 504)

29 U.S.C. § 793 et seq.; 34 C.F.R. § 104.1 et seq., 41 C.F.R. § 60-741.1 et seq.

The Law: Section 503, contained at 29 U.S.C. § 793, requires government contractors with any contract in excess of $10,000 to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities. Section 504, at 29 U.S.C. § 794, provides that no person, by reason of disability, shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. This includes non-discrimination in employment by these programs. See 34 C.F.R. § 104.11. Contains remedies for discrimination against individuals with disabilities. For non-discrimination in programs and activities with respect to students, see Non-Discrimination with Respect to Students.

Actions Required:

  • Adopt grievance procedures. A recipient must adopt an internal review procedure incorporating due process standards. See 29 C.F.R. § 32.45 and 34 C.F.R. § 104.7. Note, however, that grievance procedures need not be established with respect to complaints from applicants for employment.

  • Designation of responsible employee. A recipient that employs 15 or more persons must designate at least one person to coordinate compliance efforts. See 34 C.F.R. § 104.7.

  • Affirmative action. Title 29 U.S.C. § 793requires all institutions holding contracts with the federal government in excess of $10,000 to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities with respect to the federal contracts. If a government contractor has 50 or more employees and a contract of $50,000 or more, then the contractor must prepare and maintain a written affirmative action plan.

  • As of March 24, 2014, the affirmative action requirement is restated as follows, pursuant to a Sept. 24, 2013 Final Rule. The Final Rule establishes a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs. Contractors will apply the goal to each of their job groups, or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Contractors must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified problems.

  • Certification requirement. The exact language required for certification is contained at 48 C.F.R. § 52.222-36.

  • Recordkeeping. Records made or kept after August 29, 1996 are covered under 41 C.F.R. § 60-741 which requires that all employment and personnel records must be kept for a period of two years (150 or more employees and a government contract of $150,000 or more). Title VII and the ADA impose separate recordkeeping requirements for institutions of higher education, which are set forth at 29 C.F.R. § 1602.48. All records that are required for the completion of the Higher Education Staff Information Report EEO-6 are to be retained for a period of three years. Currently, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (Form IPEDS) Fall staff survey is used in place of the EEO-6. The IPEDS report is to be produced biennially (but the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will no longer be collecting it), and a copy kept for three years thereafter and made available upon request to the appropriate representatives of the federal government. See 20 U.S.C. § 1094(a)(17). There is not an independent filing requirement for the affirmative action plan. Records of all complaints filed alleging violations of the Rehabilitation Act shall be kept for a period of at least three years as well. See 29 C.F.R. § 32.45.

  • Posting requirements. Must post notice of contractor's obligations to take affirmative action to employ qualified individuals with disabilities. Should be posted where both employees and applicants can see. See 48 C.F.R. § 52.222-36.

There is no administrative prerequisite to litigation under 504. Remedies for violations include compensatory damages, injunctive relief, and other forms of relief traditionally available in suits for breach of contract. Money damages are only available for intentional and not negligent violations. Punitive damages are not available under 504. See Barnes v. Gorman, 536 U.S 181, 189 (2002). 

Access Board Final Rule, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines, 82 Fed. Reg. 5790, Jan. 18, 2017. 

This rule, effective March 20, 2017, with a compliance deadine of Jan. 18, 2018 update the standards for electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by Federal agencies covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The rule also updates guidelines for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934. Compliance with the 255 rules in not required until the rules are adopted by the FCC. See About the ICT Refresh on the Access Board Page. 

Although these rules are applicable to the federal government, compliance with these standards will help  ensure accessibility for students if used as the baseline by colleges and universities. See New Baseline for Accessibility, Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 3, 2017.  Note some federal grant programs require compliance with this law. 

See E205.4 Accessibility Standard. Electronic content shall conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0. 

Final Rule: Affirmative Action and Non-Discrimination Obligations of Federal Contractors and Subcontractors Regarding Individiuals with Disabilities, 78 Fed Reg. 68582.Published Sept. 24, 2013, effective March 24, 2014. The final rule strengthens the affirmative action provisions by, among other things, requiring data collection pertaining to applicants and hires with disabilities, and establishing a utilization goal for individuals with disabilities to assist in measuring the effectiveness of the contractor's affirmative action efforts. See the OFCCP page on the final rule for a fact sheet, a summary of the new rule, and a self-identification form, which may now be used at the pre-offer stage. See 60 CFR 741.45 for more on utilizaiton goals. 

 

 

Resources

 SSB BART Group Blog on accessibility 

 PEAT Policy Brief: Summary of the Access Board's Final Rule Revising the ICT Standards in Section 508 of the Rehab Act 

 

mlo updated 6/16/17