Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Section 504 is widely recognized as the first civil-rights statute for persons with disabilities. Section 504 provides:
"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance ..."
Section 504 forbids schools and other organizations from excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services. It defines the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate in, and have access to, program benefits and services.
For more information on Section 504
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.
Section 504 states that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].
Who is an “individual with a disability”?
As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].
What is an “impairment” as used under the Section 504 definition?
504 plans are formal plans that schools develop to give kids with disabilities the supports they need. These plans prevent discrimination and protect the rights of kids with disabilities in school. They’re covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil rights law.
These plans aren’t part of special education, so they don’t provide individualized instruction, like IEPs do. But a central purpose of 504 plans is to give kids with disabilities access to the same education their classmates are getting. (Learn more about the difference between IEPs and 504 plans.)
One way 504 plans do that is through accommodations, like extended time on tests or the ability to leave the classroom for short breaks. Accommodations can include additional materials, different teaching techniques, changes in setting, different or shortened homework, organizational techniques, etc.
HOW TO GET A 504 PLAN
Kids may not qualify for special education services, but need additional supports.
Three main questions must be addressed to qualify for a 504.
- Does the student have a potentially limiting mental or physical disability?
- Does the student’s disability impari a major life activity?
- Is the degree of impairment substantial?
With 504 plans, schools look at information about a student from a few different sources. One source might be a medical diagnosis. Schools might also look at the student’s grades, test scores and teacher recommendations.
Parents or schools can request a 504 plan through the school district’s 504 coordinator. The request must be made in writing. The school will then hold a meeting to decide if the child qualifies and what supports are appropriate.