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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The 40th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 gives us a chance to reflect on the progress we've made and the challenges that still exist for people with disability in the 21st Century.   As the predecessor to the Americans with Disability Act, the Rehabilitation Act continues to serve as the foundation for enhancing access for all Americans.

Section 504 is the federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs receiving federal funding.   While many people are familiar with the idea of accessible sidewalks, and buses,  one of the lesser-known keys to achieving transportation progress for people with disabilities is access to travel training.

Learning to navigate the available options safely and confidently can make a big difference not just in your mobility, but in your quality of life and the number of opportunities open to you.

Photo of student in wheelchair on streetcar

In particular, learning about transportation and travel training while in school can help students with disabilities develop a strong foundation of travel skills; this foundation then enables them to access and benefit from other services provided under the Rehabilitation Act.

To ensure that students are prepared for the future--and that their transition to post school settings is successful--students , educators, parents, and rehabilitation professionals can include transportation education and travel instruction in student coursework, individualized education programs (IEP), and service delivery. Transportation education integrates content about transportation in academics and common core instruction and helps educators embed transportation goals and services in IEPs and transition plans.

Photo of student with seeing eye dog.The Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act reminds us that we must do everything in our power to connect all of our citizens to the 21st Century economy.  We must ensure that our transportation system is built to connect Americans to jobs, education, health care, and community.  And we must make sure that they know how to use our transportation system to grab a rung on what President Obama calls "ladders of opportunity."

This means that we must have safe roads and sidewalks, reliable transit service, and intercity connections that are accessible for all Americans.  Not for a few Americans.  Not for some Americans. For every American.

Bryna Helfer, Ed.D, is the DOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement.

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