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Fact Sheet: Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

This is a Disability Discrimination Fact Sheet.


Issued by: Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

Issue Date: July 07, 1905

Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

A girl pushes another girl in a wheelchair

As they apply to entities under the jurisdiction of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), OCR enforces:

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including programs and activities that are conducted by HHS or receiving Federal financial assistance from HHS
  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, covering access to electronic and information technology provided by HHS
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, covering all health care and social services programs and activities of public entities
  • Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), ensuring that an individual is not excluded from participating in, denied benefits because of, or subjected to discrimination as prohibited under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (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.

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 Sheet - PDF 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
  • 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
    • Information about the grievance procedures

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act 

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.  Read HHS’s policy regarding 508 accessibility.

Guidance and Resources for Ensuring Accessibility of Health Programs and Activities Offered Through Electronic Information Technology

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published guidance to assist providers of healthcare and health coverage in complying with their civil rights responsibilities to ensure that health programs and activities they offer through technology are accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. The guidance provides clarity on the application of Federal civil rights laws with respect to websites, healthcare kiosks and electronic health record systems used by covered entities. 

Disability Resources

HHS is committed to making its websites and documents accessible to the widest possible audience, including individuals with disabilities. We are in the process of retroactively making some documents accessible. If you need assistance accessing an accessible version of this document, please reach out to the

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this database lack the force and effect of law, except as authorized by law (including Medicare Advantage Rate Announcements and Advance Notices) or as specifically incorporated into a contract. The Department may not cite, use, or rely on any guidance that is not posted on the guidance repository, except to establish historical facts.