Rehabilitating Section 504
February 12, 2003
SCOPE AND PURPOSE:
This report is one of a series of independent analyses by NCD of federal enforcement of civil rights laws.
The series grew out of NCD’s 1996 national policy summit, attended by more than 300 disability community leaders from diverse backgrounds, who called upon NCD to work with federal agencies to develop strategies for greater enforcement of existing disability civil rights laws. This report looks at the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 enforcement activities of five key federal agencies: the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice. NCD’s findings reveal that while the Federal Government has consistently asserted its strong support for the civil rights of people with disabilities, the federal agencies charged with enforcement and policy development under Section 504 have, to varying degrees, lacked any coherent and unifying national leadership, coordination, accountability, and funding.
This report provides a blueprint for addressing the shortcomings that have hindered Section 504 compliance and enforcement until now. Among the various strategies and approaches to improve Section 504, NCD recommends that the Federal Government conduct periodic and thorough Section 504 self- evaluations; improve data collection and dissemination of data about Section 504 enforcement efforts; bolster Department of Justice resources and guidance to federal agencies on Section 504 enforcement; and apply successful practices in Section 504 technical assistance and enforcement used by federal agencies.