Skip Navigation

Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

Two health care workers help an elderly man walk The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for enforcing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504); Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508); and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as they apply to entities under the jurisdiction of OCR. A girl pushes another girl in a wheelchair

For a full list of nondiscrimination requirements for which OCR has jurisdiction, please review the Understanding Your Civil Rights page. For a list of areas of nondiscrimination enforcement for which the Office for Civil Rights does not have jurisdiction, please review our Civil Rights Enforcement through Other Federal Agencies page.

  • OCR's jurisdiction under Section 504 includes programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from HHS, and programs and activities conducted by HHS.
  • OCR's enforcement authority under Section 508 covers access to electronic and information technology provided by HHS.
  • OCR's jurisdiction under ADA covers all of the healthcare and social services programs and activities of public entities (state and local governments, departments, agencies, etc.).


Rights and Responsibilities under Section 504 and the ADA

Section 504 and the ADA protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of benefits and services.  See the Facts Sheets and the Regulations for an explanation of who is a qualified individual with a disability and more detailed information about rights and responsibilities.

Covered entities must not, on the basis of disability:

  • Exclude a person with a disability from a program or activity;
  • Deny a person with a disability the benefits of a program or activity;
  • Afford a person with a disability an opportunity to participate in or benefit from a benefit or service that is not equal to what is afforded others;
  • Provide a benefit or service to a person with a disability that is not as effective as what is provided others;
  • Provide different or separate benefits or services to a person with a disability unless  necessary to provide benefits or services that are as effective as what is provided others;
  • Apply eligibility criteria that tend to screen out persons with disabilities unless necessary for the provision of the service, program or activity.

Covered entities must:

  • Provide services and programs in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the qualified individual with a disability;
  • Ensure that programs are accessible (to learn more...)
  • Make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless it would result in a fundamental alteration of the program;
  • Provide auxiliary aids to persons with disabilities, at no additional cost, where necessary to afford an equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from a program or activity;
  • Designate a responsible employee to coordinate their efforts to comply with Section 504 and the ADA;
  • Adopt grievance procedures to handle complaints of disability discrimination in their programs and activities;
  • Provide notice that indicates:
    • That the covered entity does not discriminate on the basis of disability;
    • How to contact the employee who coordinates the covered entity’s efforts to comply with the law; and
    • Information about the grievance procedures.

Section 508 applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, provide, maintain or use electronic and information technology.  Federal agencies must ensure that the technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an undue burden.