|The Smith-Fess Act of 1920 is considered the beginning of the public rehabilitation program for persons with disabilities. Funds were provided for vocational guidance, training, occupational adjustment, prosthetics, and placement services.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 provided the opportunity for persons who were blind to be licensed to operate vending stands in federal buildings.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments of 1943 expanded services to include physical restoration and also required states to submit a written state plan to the federal government. In addition, provisions were expanded to include service to persons with mental retardation and mental illness.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1954 made major changes to financing provisions. Funding to state VR agencies was determined by a formula that considered state population and per capita income. Extension and improvement project grants were added as were research and demonstration grants. Provision was also made for training grants for VR agency staff.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1965 expanded services to reach a broader population; as examples, persons with a substance abuse history and those with socially handicapping conditions. Economic need was eliminated.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 changed the name of the legislation from the Vocational Rehabilitation Act to the Rehabilitation Act. A priority to serve persons with severe disabilities was mandated. Affirmative action programs were established in Title V, Sections 501, 502, 503, and 504. The establishment of the Individual Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP) was a major step to ensure the enhanced involvement of the consumer in developing a rehabilitation plan of action.
The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1978 responded to consumer concerns for added involvement by the establishment of independent living centers. A focus on peer counseling and guidance emerged.
The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986 enhanced support for rehabilitation engineering, with clear definitions for rehabilitation engineering services. In addition, support for special projects and demonstrations in supported employment were established.
The 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act clearly outlined the intent of Congress to ensure consumer choice in career opportunities, with competitive employment the desired outcome.
Click here for Highlights of the 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act