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ADA & the Rehab Act

Deaf People | Deaf Culture | Definitions | ADA / Rehab Act | Using Interpreters | Be an Interpreter

There are specific federal laws affecting Deaf and hard of hearing people. The ADA is one such law. It stands for "Americans with Disabilities Act." Another one is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, casually referred to as "the Rehab Act."

In the area of education, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires educational institutions receiving federal aid to eliminate barriers that prevent the admission of students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations such as sign language interpreters and notetakers.

The intention behind the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was to make it possible for people with disabilities to obtain better opportunities in the world of employment. However, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 only applied to the federal government (as an employer), employers with federal government contracts, or employers who received federal grants. The law didn't apply to private employers and non-federal employees.

A solution was achieved with the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA covers all work sites and companies employing 15 or more people. The law requires state and local governments to make all their services accessible to people with disabilities, which means TTYs, visual fire alarms, and sign language interpreters. The law also gives people with disabilities the right to equal access to public accommodations such as hotels, theaters, restaurants, doctors' offices, dentists' offices, and hospitals. And the law requires telephone companies to provide both local and long distance telecommunications relay services.

These laws make it possible for Deaf and hard of hearing people to obtain access to their education, employment and environment. To learn more about the ADA, visit the U.S. Department of Justice ADA web site at or

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also has a good question and answer section on their web site at

Interesting reading and many related links on the ADA and the Rehab Act are available on Wikipedia.

If you know of other worthwhile resources available online, please let us know!