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Historic Disability Related Legislation

Use the timeline below or view a PDF of major federal legislation for people with disabilities.
Rosewood Center, Maryland’s oldest and largest institution closed after 120 years of operation. View timeline

2011

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act continues support for the programs established under the Combating Autism Act of 2006.

2010

The Affordable Care Act prohibits pre-existing conditions exclusions and discrimination based on disability & health status; eliminates annual and lifetime caps; and expanded Medicaid eligibility.

2010

Rosa’s Law changed the term “mental retardation” to “intellectual disabilities” throughout federal law. It did not make the change in Medicaid law.

2010

The Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act improved HUD’s Section 811 program, supporting more integrated models of housing for people with disabilities.

2010

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act improves access to the internet, smart phones, TV programming and other technologies for people who are deaf, blind or have low vision.

2009

The Mathew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act added disability as a protected class under the Hate Crimes Act.

2008

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 includes provisions that improve access to postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities.

2008

The ADA Amendments Act redefined “major life activities” to make it easier for people with disabilities to qualify for protections against employment discrimination under the ADA.

2006

The Lifespan Respite Care Act promotes a coordinated system of respite care at the state and federal levels and authorized grants to increase the availability of respite care for family caregivers of individuals with disabilities, regardless of age.

2006

The Combating Autism Act increased funding for the CDC and NIH for screening, education and other programs for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

2004

The Assistive Technology Act amended the AT Act of 1998. The Act supports states to expand access to assistive technology.. Funds cover financing AT, loan programs, training and public awareness, among other uses.

2004

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, among other things, changed the way schools identify students w/ disabilities and made changes related to IEP requirements and transition services.

2002

The Help America Vote Act is intended to make voting more accessible. It includes provisions about accessibility and accommodations for voters with disabilities.

2001

The No Child Left Behind Act reformed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by requiring, among other things that states raise standards for all children, including students w/disabilities, with the goal of closing achievement gaps.

1999

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Olmstead v. L.C. determines unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities constitutes discrimination and violates the ADA. People with disabilities have a right to receive benefits in the "most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," and failure to find community-based placements is illegal discrimination.

1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is signed prohibiting discrimination based on disability. It is considered the most important civil rights law since Section 504 of the Rehab Act.

1988

The Fair Housing Amendments Act expands on the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and requires a certain number of accessible housing units be created in all new multi-family housing. The act covers both public and private homes and not only those in receipt of federal funding.

1980

The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act gives the Department of Justice power to sue state or local institutions that violate the rights of people held against their will, including those institutionalized for mental illness.

1975

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act--now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, guarantees a free, appropriate, public education for all children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.

1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act makes it illegal for federal agencies, public universities, and other public institutions receiving federal funds to discriminate on the basis of disability.
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