Skip Navigation

Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

Two health care workers help an elderly man walk 

OCR is responsible for enforcing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504); Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508); Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990; and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as they apply to entities under the jurisdiction of OCR.

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 OCR does not have jurisdiction, please review our Civil Rights Enforcement through Other Federal Agencies page.

 A girl pushes another girl in a wheelchair
  • 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 health care and social services programs and activities of public entities (state and local governments, departments, agencies, etc.).

  • OCR has enforcement authority under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18116), which provides that an individual shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the grounds prohibited under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq. (race, color, national origin), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. (sex), the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. 6101 et seq. (age), or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794 (disability), under any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving federal financial assistance, or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive Agency or any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act or its amendments.  OCR has enforcement authority with respect to health programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or are administered by HHS or any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act or its amendments.

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, services, activities, and facilities 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 requires that any electronic and information technology used, maintained, developed, or procured by the Federal government allow persons with disabilities, comparable access to information and technology.  This applies to persons with disabilities who use assistive technology to read and navigate electronic materials.