By: Carmen Willings
Updated June 18, 2022
NOTE: I have assembled this list from online and offline resources. If you know of a discrepancy on this page please contact me so I can amend the entry. Thank You!
Legislation has impacted the field of visual impairments for many years. Early legislation related to adults. Legislation at the end of the 20th century changed how students with visual impairments were educated. Learn about the history and legislation that impact services today.
1827 PL 19-8, the first federal legislation concerning persons who are blind, provided land in Florida and Kentucky for facilities for people with disabilities.
1879 Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, P.L. 45-186, the congressional Act of 1879, authorized funds for the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). This Federal Act was passed by Congress to provide adapted educational materials to eligible students working at less than college level who meet the definition of blindness. The purpose of the Act is to place the most appropriate educational aids, tools, and supplies in the hands and lives of every student with vision loss. An annual registration of eligible students determines a per-capita amount of money designated for the purchase of educational materials produced by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). These funds are credited to Federal Quota accounts. Learn more about Federal Quota Funds and the student registry.
1906 P.L. 59-288 modified the requirements of P.L. 45-186
1919 P.L. 66-24 provided additional funds to APH.
1920 PL 66-236 Smith-Fess Act: Established the first civilian rehabilitation act; authorized vocational guidance, occupation adjustment, and placement services for civilians with physical disabilities.
1931 The Pratt-Smoot Act, P.L. 71-787. Provide funding for literature for adults who are blind.
1935 PL 74-271 Social Security Act: Made the state-federal vocational rehabilitation program a permanent program that could be discontinued only by an act of Congress.
1936 PL 74-732 Randolph-Shepphard Act: Individuals classified as legally blind could operate vending stands on federal property.
1938 PL 75-739 Wagner-O'Day Act: Mandated that the federal government purchase designated products from facilities for persons who are blind.
1941 P.L. 77-270 amended P.L. 45-186, an act to allow Franking Privileges for people who are blind to the circulation of reading matter for people who are blind, to include braillewriters and other appliances when mailed for repair. Franking Privileges allows letters or parcels to be sent without the application of a postage stamp.
1943 PL 78-113 Bardon-LaFollette Act: Included rehabilitation services to persons with mental retardation and mental illness and provided the first federal-state rehabilitation support for persons who are blind.
1949 P.L. 81-290 provided for the sending of braillewriters to or from persons who are blind at the same rates as provided, regardless of the purpose for which they were mailed.
1954 PL 83-565 Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments: Included funding to colleges and universities for preparation of rehabilitation professionals, expanded services to persons with mental retardation and mental illness, provided rehabilitation facility expansion funds and funding for extension and improvement of state agencies, and authorized research and demonstration programs.
1963 P.L. 88-164 extended funding for personnel preparation for all categories of children with disabilities.
1964 Title II, P.L. 88-164, supported universities in creating departments for teachers of exceptional children.
1965 Title I, P.L. 89-313, amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide support for the education of children with disabilities in state-operated and state-supported schools and hospitals.
1965 PL 89-333 Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments: Established a National Commission on Architectural Barriers, deleted economic need as a requirement for services, increased the federal share of federal-state programs (i.e. the matching requirement) to 75% and added an extended evaluation, which enabled counselors to provide services for periods of 6 to 18 months to determine eligibility for vocational rehabilitation services.
1967 PL 90-99 Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments: Established a National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults and authorized grants to state vocational rehabilitation agencies for pilot projects for the provision of vocational disabilities who were migratory agricultural workers and members of their families.
1968 Handicapped Children's Early Education Assistance Act, P.L. 90-538, authorized preschool and early education programs for children with disabilities.
1968 P.L. 91-61 provided for a National Center on Educational Media and Materials for the Handicapped.
1971 Wagner Oday Act. The Wagner Oday Act is a U.S. federal law requiring that all federal agencies purchase specified supplies and services from nonprofit agencies employing persons who are blind or have other significant disabilities. It expanded the Wagner O'Day Act of 1938. The older law applied only to people who were blind and covered supplies but not services.
1972 The Education Amendments of 1972, P.L. 92-318, prohibited discrimination against people who are blind.
1973 Vocational-rehab Act. Section 504. Can not discriminate on hiring based on handicap. Education is mandated. Title V, was put in place to correct the problem of discrimination against people with disabilities in the United States. Affirmative action programs were established in Title V, Sections 501, 502, 503, and 504. Individuals who qualify as having a disability have experienced discrimination both because of negative attitudes in regards to their ability to be an effective employee, as well as the physical barriers at work facilities.
Title V of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act requires private employers with federal contracts over $2,500 to take affirmative action to hire individuals with a mental or physical disability. While this means that employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, it does not mean they must hire unqualified individuals. There are additional sections of the Act that provide vocational counseling, training assistance and job placement for individuals with severe disabilities.
1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). A federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. It gives parents certain rights for their children's education records.
1974 PL 93-651 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1974: Extended the authorizations of appropriations in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for one year, strengthened the Randolph-Sheppard Act Amendments of 1974), and provided for the convening of a White House Conference on "Handicapped Individuals."
1975 The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, P.L. 94-142, guaranteed a free appropriate public education (FAPE), with special education, related services, and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), for each child with a disability. This applied to each child with a disability in every state and locality across the country. Changes in the law included efforts to improve how children with disabilities were identified and educated, to evaluate the success of these efforts, and to provide due process protections for children and families.
1978 PL 95-602 Rehabilitation, Comprehensive Services, and Developmental Disabilities Amendments of 1978: Expanded the quality and scope of reader services for individuals who are blind and interpreter services for people who are deaf; established independent living services as part of federal-state rehabilitation program, including independent living services for "older blind individuals," provided vocational rehabilitation services grants to Native Americans located on federal and state reservations; established the National Institute of Handicapped Research, Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers, ad Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers, and the Helen Keller Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults; established the National Council on the Handicapped.
1982. TEFRA, P.L. 97-248, the tax equity and fiscal responsibility Act of 1982. This act provided medical assistance eligibility to some children with disabilities who live with at least one biological or adoptive parent.
1984 PL 98-221 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1984; Established Client Assistance Programs in each state, inserted the word "qualified" before personnel for training programs in the Act.
1986 94-457 Amendment to Education for all Handicapped Children Act. mandated that states provide programs and services from birth. Education for all handicapped children option for 0-2, mandated for 3 and older. IDEA mandated 0-21IFSP. family centered, CSC, support counseling, trans-disciplinary "role release" Part H ages 0-2 IEP. Individualized Education Program. Part B ages 3 to 22. IPE Individualized plan for employment. Vocational plan for employment. First called IWRP (Individualized written Rehab Plan) or IRP. It starts at the age of 14.
1986 PL 99-506 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986; Added the definition of supported employment to the Act, established supported employment as an acceptable goal for rehabilitation services and provided funding for state supported employment programs; added rehabilitation engineering services as a vocational rehabilitation services.
1988 PL 100-407 Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988: Provided financial assistance to states in developing and implementing a consumer-responsive statewide program of technology-related assistance for individuals of all ages with disabilities.
1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, P.L. 101-336, prohibits discrimination based on a person disability. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in areas of employment, public services, and public accommodations. Title I of ADA requires an employer with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities unless it would cause undue hardship.
Title II requires public transportation to be accessible including traffic lights, curb cuts, median strips, ramps, sidewalks, pedestrian crosswalks, interstate and highway restroom facilities, parking spaces, and parking lots. ADA requires that all current and future fixed rail and bus systems across the country be fully accessible; it also requires that supplemental para-transit services be provided (demand-responsive service for people who cannot access fixed-route service). Airlines are required to accommodate guide animals in the passenger cabin whenever possible; they are also required to inform people with hearing impairments about the gate and other travel changes. Flight safety information is conveyed in alternative formats for those with hearing and vision impairments. Title II also covers all programs and services and regulatory activities relating to state and local public housing, and housing assistance and referral. Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines concerns making facilities accessible (e.g., braille signage). It sets requirements for accessibility to buildings and facilities by individuals with disabilities. It contains requirements for accessibility features such as detectable warnings, braille and large print signage, and accessible elevator controls.
1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), P.L. 101-476 strengthened the E.H.C Act and renamed it.
1991 PL 102-52 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1991: Made technical amendments in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and extended the Act for one year.
1992 PL 102-569 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992: Emphasized client choice of employment and services with a statement by the consumer on the IWRP; established consumer-controlled State Rehabilitation Advisory Councils; established a presumption of eligibility that individuals could benefit from vocational rehabilitation services, unless the agency could demonstrate otherwise; expanded services to include transition services, on-the-job services, other personal assistance services, and supported employment as a basic service; enhanced access to traditionally underserved minority populations; increased accountability measures; limited the time period for determining eligibility to 60 days from application; and directed Client Assistance Programs to include individual and systemic advocacy.
1993 PL 103-73 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1993 made technical corrections or "amendments" to the 1992 Rehabilitation Act Amendments and clarified the role of the State Rehabilitation Advisory Council.
1996 Section 255: Telecommunications. Congress amended the telecommunications law to require telephones and telephone services to be more accessible. Section 255 ensures that new telephones would be designed for use by people with disabilities including those who are blind or visually impaired. The internet and electronic mail are not currently covered under Section 255.
1997 P.L. 105-17 strengthened IDEA, affirming that children with visual impairments would receive instruction in Braille unless the IEP team decides otherwise, and added orientation and mobility instruction as a related service under the act. It established high expectations for students with disabilities to achieve real educational results.
1998 Section 508. Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 addressing access to electronic information technology. It was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities and to encourage the development of technologies that will achieve these goals.
History of vi
Vi organizations & Agencies
VI book resources
Individual Learning Differences
Community Based Experiences
Concepts to Teach
Organization & Study Skills
Movies & Assemblies
Lectures & Instruction
Board Work (Chalk, White, etc.)
Numbers & Counting
Cranmer Abacus Instruction
Geometry & Spatial Sense
Measurement & Data
Early Literacy Experiences
Create Tactual Books
Social Studies Adaptations
Accessible Educational Materials
Individual Schedules & Communication Cards
Optical Devices for Near
Optical Devices for Distance
Optical Device Use
Pictures & Worksheets
Word Processing and Shortcuts
Navigate Computer w/o a Mouse
Braille Instruction Materials
Summer Reading (braille)
Signature & Handwriting
Nemeth Braille Code
Tactile Graphics Guidelines
Creating Tactile Graphics
Tactile Graphics Instruction
Teacher Made Materials
Overview of Assistive Technology
VI AT Resources
Non-Optical Low Vision Devices
Video Magnifier Instruction
Screen Enlargement & Readers
Low/Med. Tech Tactual Devices
Tactile Graphics Technology
Auditory Access Devices
Accessing Audio Books
iPads as Instructional Tools
Making iOS Device Accessible
iOS Accessibility Resources
Apps for VI
Note Taking apps
Apps for Accessing Books
Navigation & Location Apps
Sound Making Apps
Cause & Effect Apps
Vision Skills Apps
Apps for Early Learning
Read to Me Story Apps
Apps for Communication
Android Apps for VI
Encourage Use of Vision
Sensory Area & Rooms
Sensory Activities for Students with Multiple Disabilities
Visual Efficiency Skills
Visual Attend and Scan Activities
Visual Tracking Activities
Visual Discrimination Activities
Visual Motor Activities
Developing Skillful Hands
Listening Skill Instruction
orientation & Mobility
recreation & Leisure