Government-Wide Coordination Activities for Implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

HRD-81-35: Published: Dec 5, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 1980.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 recognized the rights of handicapped individuals to participate in and benefit from federally funded programs and activities. In April 1976, an Executive Order directed the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to coordinate implementation of section 504 throughout the Federal Government. The Order also directed HEW to establish standards for determining who handicapped persons were under the provisions of section 504, and to develop guidelines for determining discriminatory practices prohibited by section 504. A review of the HEW Government-wide coordination activities for implementing section 504 was performed. In November 1980, an Executive Order transferred the responsibility for coordinating Federal agencies' implementation of section 504 to the Department of Justice.

HEW did not issue its guidelines until January 1978, almost 2 years after the Executive Order. HEW attributed the delay to a lack of congressional guidance on the complex issues raised by the far-reaching prohibition against discrimination. The HEW January 1978 guidelines did not provide direction for some of the situations that Federal agencies might encounter; instead, HEW advised the agencies to include specific provisions in their own regulations for the particular programs and activities they administered. Several inconsistencies were found between the HEW 1978 guidelines and the section 504 regulations issued by other Federal agencies. While HEW provided technical assistance to other Federal agencies, it often failed to advise them about available policy statements, and in one instance delayed the clarification of a court decision affecting the enforcement of section 504. Twenty-eight Federal agencies and offices were requested by HEW to issue regulations for implementing section 504, but as of April 1980, only six had done so. While agency officials gave a number of reasons for the delays, it was believed that a major cause was the low priority agencies gave to enforcing the requirements of section 504.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish priorities for increasing the technical assistance provided to other agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish priorities for resolving inconsistencies between these regulations and those issued by other Federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish priorities for revising the 1978 regulations to give other Federal agencies more clearly defined guidance on issues they view as not adequately covered in the 1978 regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should instruct the heads of Federal departments and agencies that have not yet issued section 504 regulations to do so as soon as possible.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 28, 2016

Sep 27, 2016

Sep 26, 2016

Sep 23, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Aug 30, 2016

Aug 11, 2016

Jul 22, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here