Section 504 is the part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that guarantees specific rights in federally funded programs and activities to people who qualify as disabled. This civil rights law states that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall solely by reason of his or her 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.” It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education.
It differs from the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) in that it does not require a school to develop and provide an individualized education program (IEP) that meets a child’s unique needs and provides educational benefit.
To be qualified under Section 504, a student must be “qualified ”. This roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program, state law, and federal law, and must have 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)].
An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that “substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning-, behavior- or health-related condition. A physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability for purposes of Section 504 unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities” (Appendix A to Part 104, #3)].
For more information regarding accommodations and modifications under a 504 plan in the school environment, please contact Lazlo Hunt at 970-586-2361 x3008.