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.
By: Carmen Willings
Updated August 4, 2019
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!
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.
1931 The Pratt-Smoot Act, P.L. 71-787. Provide funding for literature for adults 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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