Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Passed by congress in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, also known as Public Law 93-112, came into effect in 1975. Known as the "Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities," sought to reduce discrimination within the federal, state, and local governments, provide qualified people with disabilities employment and fair wages, and to ensure access to services paid for by the federal government.

There are four major sections affecting Deaf people:


Requires affirmative action in federal agencies. The agency must have a plan for hiring, placing, and training qualified people with disabilities.


Prohibits architectural barriers in federal funded buildings and public transportation systems. Established the Federal Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB).


Requires federal contractors (companies, institutions, etc.) with more than 50 employees or contracts over $50,000 with the government must have a plan for hiring, placing, and training people with disabilities.


Prohibits discrimination against any qualified disabled individuals in federally supported programs or activities.

In addition, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 defined a handicapped person as anyone who:
  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, learning, working, breathing, taking care of self, doing manual tasks)
  • Has a record of such impairment but is not currently impaired
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment
  • The impairment can be either permanent or temporary

A 'Qualified Disabled Person' is defined as a person who:
  • Can perform the essential functions of a job with reasonable accommodations
  • Is of an age during which non-disabled persons are provided the same services
  • Meets the academic and technical standards prerequisite to admission or participation in an education program
  • Meets the essential eligibility requirements for receiving services