The Rehabilitation Act

Kathy West-Evans & Annette Reichman


Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA): Who Are We?
  • RSA Commissioner: JoAnne Wilson
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • Office of Special Education & Rehabilitation (OSERS)
  • RSA Central Office + 10 Regional Offices:
  • Rehabilitation Act: Titles I, III, VI, VII
  • Annual Budget: $2.5 Billion; 85% of budget in Title I programs

Workforce Investment Act of 1998 Includes the Rehab Act

  • Title I: Workforce Investment Systems
  • Title II: Adult Education & Literacy
  • Title III:Workforce Investment Related Activities
  • Title IV: Rehabilitation Act, Amendments of 1998
  • Title V: General Provisions

The Rehabilitation Act Overview

  • 82 years of success
  • 14 million people with disabilities employed: 250,000 per year through the nation's public VR Program
  • Bi-partisan congressional support
  • A history of being driven by public input and the involvement of people with disabilities

History of the U.S. Public Rehabilitation Program

  • 1908 Worker's Compensation
  • 1918 Soldier's Rehabilitation Act
  • 1920, 1935 Smith-Fess Act
  • 1935 Social Security Act
  • 1943 Barden-LaFolette Act
  • 1954 VR Act Amendments
  • 1965 VR Act Amendments
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1978, 1984, and 1986
  • Rehabilitation Act - 1992 Amendments
  • Rehabilitation Act - 1998 Amendments
  • Rehabilitation Act and Regulations
  • 2003 Reauthorization

The Rehabilitation Act: Purpose and Funding

  • To support individual informed choice, the empowerment and economic self-sufficiency of people with disabilities through employment in careers, independence and inclusion in American life.
  • Holistic, comprehensive services that are individually tailored.
  • Funding: formula and discretionary; $2.5 billion per year.

The Rehabilitation Act: Title I

  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services
    • State VR Programs
    • State Rehabilitation Councils
    • Client Assistance Program
    • American Indian VR Programs

The Rehabilitation Act: Title II

  • Research and Training
    • Federally funded research and training programs
    • National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
    • Research Advisory Committee
    • Competitive, discretionary grants (e.g. DBTAC, Research and Training Centers)

The Rehabilitation Act: Title III

  • Professional Development, Special Projects and Demonstrations
    • Training - VR staff, Community Providers, Interpreter
    • Migrant Seasonal Farm Worker
    • Recreation
    • Demonstration and System Change
    • Competitive, Discretionary Grants

The Rehabilitation Act: Title IV

  • National Council on Disability
    • Independent Council of Presidential appointees
    • Promotes policies, programs and practicies that support equal opportunity and empower people with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency and community integration
    • Provides advice to the President, Congress, RSA Commissioner, Director of NIDRR and the Interagency Coordinating Council.
    • Website:

The Rehabilitation Act: Title V

  • Rights and Advocacy for Access
    • Prohibits disability discrimination in all federally funded programs and activities
    • Ensures compliance with accessibility standards that are designed to remove barriers to access for people with disabilities
    • Non-discrimination & affirmative action in federal hiring
    • Access to public buildings
    • Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
    • Inclusion of people with disabilities in programs receiving federal assistance
    • Federal agencies purchase of accessible equipment, electronic and information technology
  • Protection & Advocacy System
  • Interagency Disability Coordination Council
  • Foundation for the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Rehabilitation Act: Title VI

  • Employment Programs
    • Projects With Industry (PWI)
      • Business Advisory Council
      • Discretionary grant programs
  • Supported Employment Programs

The Rehabilitation Act: Title VII

  • Independent Living
  • State Independent Living Council (SILC)
    • Governor appointed
    • Develops State Plan for Independent Living
    • Implemented via network of IL Centers
  • Centers for Independent Living
  • IL Services for Older Blind

In Summary, the Rehabilitation Act Includes...

  • Requirements for access to all federally funded programs
  • Training for rehabilitation professionals through MA degree programs, CSPD, and other training options
  • Research on best practices, development technologies and other focus areas to benefit individuals with disabilities
  • And most importantly, provision of direct services to individual needs through the general VR program Independent Living, Client Assistance Program, Projects with Industry, American Indian Rehabilitation, etc.

Impact on the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deafened, & Deaf-Blind Communities

  • Title V has 504 Requirements for Access & Accommodations to all federally funded programs
  • Requirements for interpreting services to access all programs funded by Title One (VR services, Independent Living Centers, Client Assistance Project, etc.)
  • Title III provides funding for training of interpreters
  • Title III provides funding for training of Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf
  • Title III also provides funding for Orientation to Deafness training

Reauthorizing the Act - Advocates Speak Out

  • RSA Public Meetings:
    • Seattle, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Oakland, Dallas, & DC
  • Region X grassroots efforts
  • Organizational representatives met with RSA Commissioner
    • NAD, SHHH, AADB & others

Input From Seattle: A Coalition of Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing

  • Demographics: demonstrated need across the community;
  • Access through effective communication: staff education, hiring of qualified staff, State Coordinators for the Deaf;
  • Access to services: effective communication with resources, access to the range of services, order of selection definitions and application, memorandums of understanding, Ticket to Work.

Seattle: Coalition of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing

  • Empowerment through education, informed choice and self-determination;
  • Representation on State Rehabilitation Councils and State Independent Living Councils;
  • Training and resources for individuals to manage their own communication needs.

National Advocacy Organization Providing Input -
The National Association of the Deaf Position Paper:
Recommendations for the 2003 Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act (

Title 1: Basic Client Services

  • More funding for Title One
  • End "Order of Selection" policies
  • Clarify "most significantly disabled" Status for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Clients to receive services
  • Revise "Interagency Agreements" to assure all policies are encouraged to participate
  • Direct services for "Low Functioning Deaf" Clients
    • Neglected group
    • Establish and fund four regional centers to be directed by one national research and technical assistance center
    • Override any state requirement for "within state" training
    • Develop a better culturally sensitive descriptor.

Title 3: Training for Rehabilitation Counselors &Personnel

  • Competency-based Training
    • Specialists for LFD
    • Job Coaches
    • Distance education for RCD and related personnel
    • Override state requirement for "within state" training
  • Reform the two national and 10 regional interpreter training programs to better meet the need

Title 6: Supported Employment & Title 7: Independent Living

  • Support Employment for "LFD" Clients
  • Role for Deaf Service Agencies and Organizations
  • Place support employment in Title 1 as an approved service
  • Program similar to the current "Older Blind Independent Living Programs" is urgently needed.

Current Legislative Activities

  • The current WIA is authorized through FY2003, including the 1998 Amendments of the Rehabilitation Act
  • On March 13, 2003, Congressman McKeon, chairman of the 21st Century Competitiveness subcommittee, introduced the House WIA Reauthorization bill - HR 1261, the "Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act."

HR 1261 - Workforce Reinvestment & Adult Education Act

  • Changes position of "Commissioner" to "Director" of RSA, appointed by the Secretary
  • Removes One-Stop partners from local boards
  • Requires One-Stop partners to contribute a portion of their Federal funds, as decided by the Governor, to One-Stop "infrastructure costs"
  • Full vote by House of Representatives expected soon

National Council on Disability

  • Check, click on correspondence, click on "Letter to the Honorable John A. Boehner, Chair, Education and the Workforce Committee, March 18, 2003
  • The letter encourages Congress to take the time to address critical issues identified by various constituencies before reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act.

National Rehabilitation Association

  • Check, and check under Governmental Affairs, for legislative updates.
  • Alert #44: House Postpones Floor Action of WIA Reauthorization Bill.
  • Businesses from Washington State quoted.

Justice for All and AAPD

  • "A Cause for Alarm" by Frank Bowe
  • JUSTICE FOR ALL -- A Service of the American Association of People with Disabilities

Input into the Reauthorization

  • Input through:
    • Public Hearings
    • Written Feedback
  • All public feedback is considered during reauthorization
  • Reauthorization is a public process

What Can You Do?

  • As an individual
    • Write letters
    • Attend SRC public meetings
  • As an organization
    • Write letters
    • Network in state for a Deaf/Hard of Hearing representative at SRC
  • Attend RSA public meetings

Key Connections

  • Your Congressional Representatives in the House and Senate
  • Congressman McKeon, Chairman of the 21st Century Competiveness Subcommittee

WROCC at WOU • 345 North Monmouth Avenue • Monmouth, OR 97361
Modified January 2006© WROCC at WOU • All rights reserved
Send comments or questions to