Disability Legislation


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with “pre-existing conditions.” Pre-existing conditions are health issues people have before they apply for insurance. Disability is a pre-existing condition. The ACA also made more people eligible for Medicaid.


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


The Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act improved the Section 811 program. This program funds housing for people with disabilities.


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.


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


The ADA Amendments Act made it easier for people with disabilities to qualify for protections against employment discrimination under the ADA.


The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 improves access to college for students with intellectual disabilities.


The Lifespan Respite Care Act put in place programs that work to improve the delivery and quality of respite services.


The Combating Autism Act increased funding for screening, education, and other programs for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. The funding goes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.


The Assistive Technology Act supports states to expand access to assistive technology. Funds cover loan programs, training, public awareness, and other things. This updated the Assistive Technology Act of 1998.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act changed the way schools identify students with disabilities. It made changes to Individual Education Program (IEP) requirements and transition services. These are just some of the changes.


The Help America Vote Act made voting accessible. It required changes to break down barriers to voting. It includes requirements about accessibility and accommodations for voters with disabilities.


The No Child Left Behind Act reformed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It required states to raise standards for all children, including students with disabilities. Its goal is to help students with disabilities do as well in school as students without disabilities.


The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act) made improvements to a law that established:

  • University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in 1963,
  • Developmental Disabilities Councils in 1970, and
  • Protection and Advocacy Systems in 1975.

In Maryland this is the Maryland Center on Developmental Disabilities, Maryland DD Council, and Disability Rights Maryland.


The U.S. Supreme Court decided that unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is discrimination. It violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). People with disabilities have a right to be in the “most integrated setting” that meets their needs. This means that states must move people out of institutions and other segregated places if their needs can be met in the community. This was the Olmstead case.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made it illegal to discriminate against people because they have a disability. It is considered the most important civil rights law since Section 504 of the Rehab Act.


The Fair Housing Amendments Act made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities when someone rents or sells an apartment or house.


The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act protects the rights of people in state or local:

  • correctional facilities (for example, jails, prisons, and juvenile detention centers),
  • nursing homes,
  • mental health facilities, and
  • institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act guarantees a “free, appropriate, public education” for all children with disabilities in the “least restrictive environment.” This means that states must educate all children for free. The education must meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities should spend as much time as possible with students who do not receive special education. This law is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act makes it illegal for federal agencies, public universities, and other public institutions that receive federal funds to discriminate against people with a disability.