504 and the ADA

“WE SET THE STAGE FOR THE ADA” - Organizer Judy Heumann, 20th Anniversary Celebration

Without Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, there would be no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 1973 Act served as a template for the more comprehensive law passed in 1990. 504 gave ADA advocates evidence that disability rights could benefit many without adding a huge burden on society.

  • Because 504 defined disability flexibly and took prejudice into account, the ADA could be about civil rights rather than medical diagnoses.

  • By building in ideas such as “reasonable accommodation” and “avoiding undue hardship,” Section 504 ensured that the ADA would always be about compromise.

  • After the long wait to have Section 504 signed, those who wrote the ADA made sure that it had to be signed into law within one year.

  • Section 504 and the battle to have it signed forged a generation of disability activists who would help draft and pass the ADA.

  • Because the Section 504 protests and legislation grouped people with many different disabilities together, there would be one big ADA instead of mini-ADAs for each impairment group.

  • The Section 504 protest lit the spark for a national disability rights movement and national disability organizations that could promote and defend the ADA.

Photographs in video courtesy of HolLynn D'Lil

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