Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Title V, was put in place to correct the problem of discrimination against people with disabilities in the United States. Affirmative action programs were established in Title V, Sections 501, 502, 503, and 504. Individuals who qualify as having a disability have experienced discrimination both because of negative attitudes in regards to their ability to be an effective employee, as well as the physical barriers at work facilities. The Title V of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act requires private employers with federal contracts over $2,500 to take affirmative action to hire individuals with a mental or physical disability. While this means that employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, it does not mean they must hire unqualified individuals. There are additional sections of the Act that provide vocational counseling, training assistance and job placement for individuals with severe disabilities

Legal definition

In the context of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, the term "disabled individual" means "any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment." This definition is closely related to the definition provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act.


In the 1987 Supreme Court decision concerning the case Nassau County, Florida v Arline, it was ruled that employees that were infected with contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, are considered disabled individuals and are therefore subject to the acts coverage. So long as the person is still qualified to do the job, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow the disabled to continue working. Individuals with AIDS are also considered disabled and are covered under the act. Recent public interest in AIDS has presented organizational management with the challenge of how to address work-related concerns about AIDS.


The Vocational Rehabilitation Act does not require employers to hire or retain a disabled person if the individual has a contagious disease that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others and the individual cannot be accommodated. Also employment is not required if the disability prevents the individual from being able to perform a required part of the job, or if the individual would be considered unqualified for the job regardless of their disease.

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