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Rehabilitation act amendment.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was a milestone in legislation addressing issues that affect people with disabilities and was the precursor to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). It authorized state governments to provide vocational rehabilitation services to people with disabilities to prepare them for employment and to assist them in independent living. The primary purpose was to empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society. This idea parallels the purpose of ADA.

The Rehabilitation Act is authorized for a specified period of time to permit legislators to amend it to incorporate new ideas and improve the process by which vocational rehabilitation is provided. The current authorization expired this year, so legislative action in the form of reauthorization was necessary.

On July 24, 1992, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Dave Durenberger (R-MN)--both of the Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy--and others introduced S. 3065, the Rehabilitation Act Amendment of 1992. Congressmen Major Owens (D-NY) and Cass Ballenger (R-NC), of the House Subcommittee on Select Education, introduced H.R. 5482 to revise and extend the programs of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. H.R. 5482 passed on August 10 and S. 3065 passed on August 11.

After the legislation was approved by each house of Congress, a joint committee met in conference to consolidate the two bills. On October 2 the House passed the conference report; the Senate followed suit on October 5. The conference report reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

The Rehabilitation Act Amendment was signed by President Bush on October 29 and became public law. Although the structure and much of the content of the act was not changed during the reauthorization process, Congress did use this opportunity to update some of the language and make positive changes in some programs.

Based on studies done in preparation for the reauthorization of the act, Congress recognized that there is a shifting pattern in the racial and ethnic profile of the nation's population. This pattern should be reflected in the individuals providing the vocational-rehabilitation services. The new act refers to "traditionally underserved populations" and emphasizes recruitment efforts, training, and career development within the field of vocational rehabilitation for this population. The commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is required to develop and implement a policy to prepare minorities for careers in rehabilitation and to provide outreach services to racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the provision of services.

Following are some of the significant changes in the new act. This summary was provided by the Senate Subcommittee on Disabilities. For a complete summary of changes, call the PVA National Office at (800) 424-8200, ext. 709.

Title I: Administration and Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Title I requires each state to develop a vocational rehabilitation plan that will:

* Explain how the state plans to serve all eligible applicants

* Describe a comprehensive system of personnel development and personnel qualification standards

* Describe outreach procedures to identify and serve individuals with disabilities who are minorities

* Facilitate the transition from school to the vocational-rehabilitation program for those who need services upon graduation

* Describe how on-the-job and other related personal assistance services are provided

* Assure that the state has established a Rehabilitation Advisory Council of which a majority are people with disabilities

The Secretary of Education will write regulations regarding the methods used in selecting recipients of services of the vocational-rehabilitation system and the scope, quality, and cost of vocational services received by the client.

A presumed-eligibility standard will reduce the eligibility-determination process to a required 60 days. Anyone considered disabled under another federal program, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, or Medicare, would be eligible for services.

Individuals will be involved in their written rehabilitation plans, to be developed jointly with their counselors, and signed.

Title II: Research

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) will perform research on the effectiveness of services provided by the act, demonstration projects, and related activities and will ensure widespread dissemination of the information obtained.

The Rehabilitation Advisory Council within the Department of Education will advise the director of NIDRR about research priorities and development and revision of the long-range plan.

Title III: Training and Demonstration Projects

In the Rehab Act of 1973, Subchapter III (Special Federal Responsibilities) included grants for new construction of rehabilitation facilities; this provision has been deleted. This title is reorganized to emphasize the importance of personnel training. Rehabilitation-technician career positions will be structured to promote advancement based on merit for people providing services to individuals with disabilities. There is a required set-aside of funds for personnel training and recruitment.

The commissioner of Rehabilitation Service may use monies appropriated under this title to fund projects, programs, and activities described in Title VIII, Special Demonstration and Training Projects.

Title IV: National Council on Disability

The National Council on Disability (NOD) is an independent agency within the government that will report to Congress and the President annually on issues relating to disabilities. It will be made up of 15 members appointed by the President; the majority will be individuals with disabilities or parents or guardians of individuals with disabilities.

Title V: Rights and Advocacy

Title V allocates funds to the states to develop outreach strategies and carry out protection and advocacy programs for individuals with disabilities who are ineligible for other client-protection assistance programs.

Section 504 of this title has, since the initial enactment, prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability by any entity that receives any amount of federal funding. This protection still exists under Title V.

The new amendments specify that the standards used to determine employment discrimination under sections 501, 503, and 504 of this act are the same standards applied under Title I (the employment section) of ADA.

Section 508 requires all federal agencies to ensure that individuals with disabilities can access and produce electronic information and data by methods comparable to those used by individuals without disabilities.

Title VI: Employment Opportunities for Individuals With Disabilities

The Projects With Industry (PWI) subtitle of Title VI will address career opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

This will be achieved by working in partnership with private industry. Grants will be awarded to employers, community rehabilitation-programs, labor unions, and trade associations to establish jointly financed projects. These ventures will establish Business Advisory Councils within the community. The councils will identify employment and career opportunities and the training or education needed for those opportunities, as well as assist in the placement of applicants after the training or education. Separate technical-assistance funding will be available for these projects to aid in employment of individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities and their representatives will be included among those who should be members of the Business Advisory Council, along with private industry, business concerns, and organized labor.

The Supported Employment subtitle specifies that individuals eligible for services under this provision are those with the most-severe disabilities and who need intensive supported-employment services to enter or retain competitive employment.

Title VII: Independent Living

The purpose of this chapter is to promote the philosophy of independent living through a program that provides consumer control, peer support, self-help, equal access, and other necessary support systems.

To be eligible to receive financial assistance for independent living centers (ILCs), a state must submit a plan to the commissioner of rehabilitation services. An ILC is defined as "a nonresidential, consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, private, nonprofit agency that is designed and operated within the local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent-living services." Each state shall establish a Statewide Independent Living Council, which has joint authority with the state to develop the state plan for independent living.

Title VIII: Special Demonstration and Training Projects

The commissioner of rehabilitation services shall make grants to states and public or nonprofit agencies and organizations for the purpose of providing a variety of services not addressed in other sections of the act. These projects are individually approved and considered trial projects. There are authorized demonstration projects dealing with:

* Transportation related to employment and vocational-rehabilitation services

* Incentives for rehabilitation counselors

* Transition from medical facilities to community living

* Increased client choices in the rehabilitation process

* Distant learning through telecommunications

* Training needs of impartial hearing officers

This Title will establish a funding account for these activities that is separate and distinct from the accounts for activities under Titles I-VII. Funds are available only to the extent provided in appropriations acts.
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Title Annotation:Washington Scene; In Depth; Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Author:Daley, Rich
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:Enforcement of ADA Title II.
Next Article:Making plans.

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