Today, July 22, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, H.R. 803) into law after the legislation recently passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bi-partisan majorities.  WIOA aims to modernize and improve federal workforce development programs.  Notably, the bill would reauthorize and make major changes to Title II of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The changes to Title II are laid out in further detail on the AOTA website and below is a summary of some of those changes.

WIOA would rename the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research and put it under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), rather than the Department of Education.

AOTA believes the program’s relocation and the inclusion of “Independent Living” into the name aligns with and reflects the priorities of the program.  Proponents believe that NIDRR’s mission is more in line with HHS, and the new location will foster better collaboration with HHS programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  The Administration for Community Living, an agency operating within HHS that brings together the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability, and the Administration on developmental Disabilities, has a focus on lifespan and community focus that should better ensure that the health and function research priorities of the Institute can be aligned and coordinated with those of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of HHS.

WIOA also makes changes to state vocational rehabilitation services designed to set high employment expectations for individuals with disabilities and challenge states to provide competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation agencies will coordinate with the transition services provided in schools under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, including a 15% set-aside of funds for these purposes.

Additionally:

  • The Interagency Committee on Disability Research chair will now be a designee of the Secretary of HHS, rather than the administrator of the NIDRR.
  • The ICDR would develop a comprehensive government wide strategic plan for disability, independent living, and rehabilitation research
  • The ICDR would create a “Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Advisory Council”

Again, a more detailed summary of the legislation can be found on AOTA’s website here.
An official one-page summary of the legislation can be found 
here.
The full text of the legislation can be found
here.
The statement of managers, including a section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be found 
here.

AOTA has not taken an official position on this legislation.  Please email FAD@aota.org with your comments or concerns.