On June 2, 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Smith-Fess Act, known as the National Civilian Rehabilitation Act. Two earlier congressional Acts had established vocational rehabilitation programs targeted to helping disabled World War I veterans transition to civilian life. The Civilian Rehabilitation Act of 1920 took those models and created a program for all Americans with disabilities, and this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of that action.
The Civilian Rehabilitation Act established the federal/state rehab program and gave funds to states, with a 50-50, match mainly for vocational services, guidance, training, occupational adjustment, and placement services. The only eligible individuals at the outset were those with physical disabilities, and they were not provided with any physical or psychological therapeutic services.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is marking this special occasion with activities and information throughout the year. Mark Schultz, Commissioner of the Rehabilitative Services Administration, has posted a podcast and a webcast highlighting transition services and some of the program’s success stories. You can also check out Twitter at that same page to hear from VR programs around the country.
The current Act governing these services was originally passed in 1973 and is now part of the Workforce Investment Act, most recently amended in 2014. Title V of the 1973 Act was particularly significant for advancing the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, including the non-discrimination provisions of Section 504. Today students with learning disabilities may receive educational services under Section 504 when they do not qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These services are critical to helping students achieve success in school and into higher education and the employment.
LDA joins in celebrating the 100th anniversary of this important program!