Just days after a refresh of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Department of Justice has now issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Section 504. A similar notice was posted for Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act last year and solicited comparable information. The purpose of the notice is to request public comment on proposed rules which will bring the law up to date with modern technology and other societal changes.
What is Section 504 and who does it cover?
The purpose of Section 504 is to guarantee civil rights to people with disabilities. The law addresses requirements for all services, programs and activities at institutions that receive federal funding, such as universities, public schools and libraries. This section does not explicitly address accessibility as does Section 508.
Section 504: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States… shall, solely by reason of her or his 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…”
What types of changes will be made?
Goal: Update Section 504 terminology to align with Title II of the ADA and bring it up to date with current technology
Section 504 was first issued in 1980, meaning a lot of the terminology used about technology and communications is out of date. The Department will remove any terminology that has become obsolete and add terms to clarify definitions.
“The Department recognizes that since the Department’s section 504 federally assisted regulation was first issued in 1980, electronic and information technology has changed the way that recipients communicate with interested persons. Individuals with disabilities—like other members of the public—should be able to equally engage with a recipient’s services, programs, and activities using electronic and information technology.”
The NPRM updates will also ensure consistency with Title II of the ADA, which was drafted later in order to elaborate the requirements of Section 504.
“The Department proposes revising certain definitions to make them consistent with the language used to define corresponding terms in the Department’s ADA regulations; deleting terminology that is no longer necessary or has become obsolete; revising or adding certain terms to incorporate statutory changes to the Rehabilitation Act; adding other definitions for clarity; and making minor technical edits to existing definitions.”
A newly updated Section 504 will reinforce the requirements of Section 508. The DOJ is open to comments from the public through March 20th, 2017. You can contribute your feedback on Regulations.gov.