Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.
§ 794, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of
disability in federally assisted programs and activities, was
amended in 1978 to extend its application to programs and
activities conducted by Federal Executive agencies, including this
Department. The Department's regulation implementing section 504
with respect to its own federally conducted programs and activities
is codified at 28 C.F.R. pt. 39. This Department is responsible,
under Executive Order 12250, for coordinating implementation of
section 504 with respect to both federally assisted and federally
conducted programs and activities. Because of this Department's
responsibility as lead agency for implementation and enforcement of
section 504, it is important that the Department's own programs and
activities be a model of compliance.|
The regulation prohibits discrimination against qualified
individuals with disabilities. An "individual with a disability"
is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a
record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an
The Department is required to take appropriate steps to
ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities are able to
participate in and benefit from all programs and activities
conducted by the Department. For example, such steps would include
- Ensuring effective communication with
applicants, program participants, personnel of other Federal
entities and members of the public.
- Sign Language Interpreters. When necessary to
ensure effective communication, the Department will provide sign
language interpreters free of charge to applicants and participants
in programs and activities of the Department of Justice, including,
for example, parties or witnesses in litigation initiated by the
United States (28 U.S.C. § 1827), members of the public who are
meeting with Department officials, individuals involved in
proceedings of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal
prison inmates, and Federal personnel receiving training conducted
by the Department. See 28 C.F.R. § 39.160.
- Effective Telephone Communications. The Department
will provide for effective telephone communication with people who
have speech or hearing impairments through use of
telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD's) or other
equally effective communications systems. See 28 C.F.R.
§ 39.160(a)(2). In addition to the TDD numbers listed in the
"Services Section" of the Justice Department telephone directory,
the U.S. Marshals Service has a nationwide toll-free TDD number:
1-800-423-0719. If a TDD user wishes to communicate with a
Department office by telephone, that office is responsible for
arranging to use one of the Department's TDD numbers for that
purpose. Department employees may also communicate with people
with hearing or speech impairments by using the telecommunications
relay services operated by telephone companies nationwide.
- Accessible format versions of printed or audio-visual
materials. The Department must provide material to people with
hearing or vision impairments in accessible formats if that
material is ordinarily made available to other individuals in print
or in an audio-visual format. Examples of formats that are
accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired include
Brailled or audiotaped versions of printed matter and
visually-described versions of video-taped or filmed material.
Examples of formats that are accessible to people who are deaf or
hard of hearing include captioned video tapes (with either open or
closed captions) and printed scripts of audio presentations.
- Ensuring program accessibility for people with
disabilities if a Department program or activity is conducted in a
facility that is not fully accessible.
- The Department will ensure that its programs and
activities are physically accessible to people with disabilities,
including persons with mobility impairments. See 28 C.F.R.
§§ 39.149-.151. For example, if a person who uses a
wheelchair wishes to meet with personnel from a Department office,
and the office is located in a building that is not accessible to
persons who use wheelchairs, that office is responsible for
arranging to hold the meeting at an alternative accessible site or
for removing the physical barriers to access. Responsibility for
ensuring program accessibility lies with the Department component
that operates the program, even if the facilities in which the
program is conducted are managed by the General Services
- Ensuring equal employment opportunity for people with
- The Department must ensure nondiscrimination in its
employment practices in accordance with the standards established
under title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission. See 29 U.S.C. 791(g),
794(d); 29 C.F.R. pt. 1630. For example, the Department must use
nondiscriminatory testing and selection criteria, make reasonable
accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of
otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, and restrict
pre-employment medical examinations and inquiries regarding
disability. The Rehabilitation Act also requires Executive
agencies, including the Department, to take affirmative action to
promote the hiring, placement, and advancement of people with
disabilities. See 29 U.S.C. 791(b).
Consistency in Litigation
The Department must also be consistent in its approach to
both affirmative and defensive litigation under Federal Disability
Rights Statutes. In order to ensure consistency, attorneys
defending Federal agencies against Rehabilitation Act employment
claims must consult title I of the ADA and the EEOC title I
regulations. See 29 U.S.C. 791(g), 794(d); 29 C.F.R. pt.
1630. When nonemployment claims are asserted against a Federal
agency under the Rehabilitation Act, attorneys should consult the
agency's section 504 regulation for federally conducted programs.
These title I and section 504 regulations provide important
guidance on the positions the Government may assert as a defendant
and may even suggest that a defense may not be permissible and that
settlement should be entertained. They should always be considered
when determining the scope of the Government's defensive posture.|
Further information about the responsibilities of
Departmental operating units under Section 504 may be obtained from
the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division at (FTS)
307-0663 (voice or TDD).