The Office on Disability was created in 1975, in response to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Initially, the Office on Disability was a Division within the Mayor's Office. In 1998, the Mayor and the City Council created the Department on Disabilities. The department is the first of its kind in the nation. It is headed by an Executive Director, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

The Commission on Disability was established in 1989, in recognition of the City's commitment to expand equal opportunities and to provide the full extent of municipal services to persons with disabilities.


In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) further expanded Civil rights protections of persons with disabilities. Together, the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require local governments to provide accessibility to public accommodations including: access to public employment, buildings, facilities, programs, social services and transportation.