Here at the Fair Housing Defense blog, we spend most of our time reviewing and discussing issues surrounding the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). At times, we also review relevant sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Just recently, I got a question about what is "Section 504" and why does it matter. "Section 504" is a part of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – which when passed was perceived as an important step for people with disabilities. Indeed, some believe The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the most important law passed concerning disabilities until the ADA. In short, The Rehabilitation Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination in federally funded programs.
Significantly, The Rehabilitation Act created specific sanctions and enforcement policies, providing the government authority to ban federal funds from entities or individuals who discriminate on the basis of a person’s disability. Section 504 of that law provides: "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States… shall solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits or, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, or under any program or activity conducted by an Executive Agency or by the U.S. Postal Services."
In practice, what happens is that some of our FHA cases get investigated in essentially parallel proceedings – once under the FHA and then again under Section 504 (if the allegations involve discrimination based on disability at an affordable community). To be candid, I think our resources would be better used by not having two concurrent investigations involving the same set of allegations, but I need one of you to get elected to Congress and then change the law.
Just a Thought.