The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-112) was (and is) critical because it addressed discrimination against persons with disabilities. Section 504 provides qualified individuals with disabilities with basic civil rights protection in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Women protesting
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.

The law states that "no otherwise qualified disabled individual in the United States... shall, solely by reason of a disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Since 1965, education was one of the many programs receiving federal financial assistance.

The U.S. Department of Education regulations to implement Section 504 prohibit discrimination against children and youth with disabilities in educational institutions receiving federal funds. Agencies that persist in acts of discrimination face the loss of federal funds. The prohibition applies to preschool, elementary, secondary, postsecondary, vocational, and other programs and activities that receive or benefit from federal financial assistance.