The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended

The purpose of the Rehabilitation Act: To support the employment, independence and the inclusion of people with disabilities in American life.


  • The public Vocational Rehabilitation program started in 1920.
  • The Rehabilitation Act was last amended in 1998 (P.L. 105-220).
  • Regulations implementing the Act published on January 17, 2001.
  • The Rehabilitation Act will be reauthorized in 2003.
  • Electronic copies of the Rehabilitation Act can be found online at:

Components of the Rehabilitation Act:

Title I: Vocational Rehabilitation Services

  • State vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. The State/ Federal VR programs are formula funded (21.7% State and 78.3% federal funds). Every State in the nation, several territories (e.g. Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia have public VR programs. Title I includes VR services for the Blind and a VR program for other people with disabilities. These programs may be in separate agencies or combined, depending upon the State structure.
  • State Rehabilitation Councils (SRC) – Governor appointed Council or Commission comprised of a majority people with disabilities. The SRC works with the VR agency on policy, program development and consumer satisfaction.
  • Client Assistance Programs – provide advocacy for consumers of Rehabilitation Act programs.
  • American Indian VR programs - discretionary grant programs serving Native Americans and Native Alaskans on or near reservations.
(NOTE: Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) provides the oversight under this title via technical assistance and monitoring.)

Title II: Research and Training

This title includes the federally funded research and training programs that focus on the inclusion and integration of individuals with disabilities in employment and in society.
  • Rehabilitation Research Advisory Committee
  • National Institute of Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
    • NIDRR – a program in the U.S. Department of Education in the administrative cluster with RSA.
    • NIDRR provides the oversight and monitors grantees under this title of the Act.

Title III: Professional Development and Special Projects and Demonstrations

This title includes the following program areas funded through federal dollars via discretionary grants (open competition):
  • Training (long-term, short-term and continuing education for VR staff and community providers)
  • Migrant Seasonal Farmworker
  • Recreation
  • Demonstration and systems change grants
(NOTE: Rehabilitation Services Administration provides the oversight through monitoring and technical assistance to grantees under this title.)

Title IV: National Council on Disability (NCD)

Presidential appointees who promote policies, programs and practices that support equal opportunity and empower people with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency and community integration. The Council provides advice to the RSA Commissioner, the Director of NIDRR and the Interagency Coordinating Council.

Title V: Rights and Advocacy

This Title:
1. prohibits disability based discrimination in all federally funded programs and activities; and
2. ensures compliance with accessibility standards that are designed to remove barriers and increase access to people with disabilities

Protection and Advocacy system (P&A)
Non-discrimination in federal hiring of people with disabilitiesNon – discrimination in hiring by federal contractors (companies receiving federal money)Language and coverage considered to be forerunner to the Americans with Disabilities ActFederal agencies purchase accessible equipment, electronic and information technologyArchitectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board)Interagency Disability Coordinating Council (13 Presidential appointees and heads of federal agencies)

Title VI: Employment programs – discretionary grant funds.

  • Projects With Industry (PWI)
  • Supported Employment

    (NOTE: Rehabilitation Services Administration provides monitoring and technical assistance.)

Title VII: Independent Living

  • State Independent Living Council (SILC) Council – Governor appointed, the SILC develops the State Plan for Independent Living, which is implemented via the network of Centers for Independent Living.
  • Centers for Independent Living
  • Independent Living Services for Older Individuals who are Blind
(NOTE: Rehabilitation Services Administration provides the monitoring and technical assistance for grantees.)

Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)

RSA Commissioner – Joanne Wilson

RSA is part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation in the U.S. Department of Education. RSA has Central Office staff and 10 regional offices with 5 Regional Commissioners

RSA’s annual budget is approximately $2.5 billion per year; 85% of budget into Title I programs.

  • Region I – Regional office in Boston; includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
  • Region II – Regional office in New York; includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
  • Region III – Regional office in Philadelphia; includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia
  • Region IV – Regional office in Atlanta; includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
  • Region V – Regional office in Chicago; includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
  • Region VI – Regional office in Dallas; includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
  • Region VII – Regional office in Kansas City; includes Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri
  • Region VIII – Regional office in Denver; includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming
  • Region IX – Regional office in San Francisco; includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Basic (American Samoa, Northern Mariana, Guam)
  • Region X – Regional office in Seattle; includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
Finding Information on the Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act
The 1998 reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act (Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998; PL 105-220) requires that the State Plan for each VR agency must include an interagency agreement covering 1) agency financial responsibility, 2) conditions, terms, & procedures of reimbursement, 3) procedures for resolving interagency disputes, and 4) coordination of service procedures among the various providers of services to VR clients. State Plans are due in to the Federal Government by April 1, 2000.

Postsecondary programs should make sure that they are a part of the planning process in their states. We are finding that many postsecondary program service providers are unaware of the provision in the section on the Rehabilitation Act Reauthorization for interagency agreements. What can you, as a postsecondary institution, do to prepare for these meetings and educate yourself about the Act and its potential impact on services to students who are VR clients?

The entire act is available free of charge from the Senate Document Room. Fax 202-228-2815 and request Conference Report 105-659. On the internet, summaries can be found at (Title IV-Rehab Act Reauthorization). You can see just how much is covered in the act by going to Three slideshows developed by the San Diego State University RRCEP project can be found at In addition, the
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workforce Investment and Employment Policy for People with Disabilities, with several pubications available on-line, can be found at

Disability Access Information and Support has developed a virtual Teach In on the subject of Vocational Rehabilitation and Interagency Agreements. The purpose of the Teach In is to inform, discuss/share, publicize, and encourage action. The website for the Teach In is Information can also be found there on how to sign on to the newly-established listserv that will be used to explore this topic.

Finally, PEPNet has posted a kit to their webpage to help postsecondary education programs prepare for negotiations with Vocational Rehabilitation. The website is The PEPNet website explores the history of the Vocational Rehabilitation-Institution of Higher Education relationship, recent events that have had an impact on this relationship, and points that each state Institution of Higher Education should be sure to obtain clarificaiton on, such as how funding of out-of-state students will be handled, and the role of private postsecondary institutions.

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