An Overview of Section 504: Supporting Access and Protecting from Discrimination

As part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Congress passed Section 504. This civil rights law (not special education law) protects people with disabilities by eliminating barriers and allowing full participation in areas of life such as education and the workplace. Section 504 is intended to prohibit disability discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance and by public entities. In order to be found eligible for a 504 accommodation plan there must be a comprehensive evaluation using information from multiple sources, testing is not always required. There are three prongs of eligibility. The child must:
  • have a documented disability, significant impairment/condition, or temporary disability
  • be significantly impaired, impacted or affected by that disability in a major life area
  • require accommodations in order to access
A 504 Plan is for students who have a disability, have a record of a disability, or are treated as having a disability but do not qualify for special education services under IDEA, but may still require accommodation. For example, let’s say that a child has cerebral palsy. While it does not interfere with the student’s progress in the general curriculum, it does require the child to use special equipment to access his/her education. Therefore, this child would qualify for a 504 Plan. Another example may be a student with a history of special education services who has progressed and is no longer eligible. This student may receive support via accommodations or support through related services such as speech, OT, assistive technology or counseling.

It’s important to realize that eligibility under Section 504 isn’t a“consolation prize”for students who do not qualify for special education services under IDEA. As mentioned earlier, before deciding whether a student is eligible for this type of plan, the child must be assessed and the school team must agree that the child has a substantial and pervasive impairment in order to be eligible under this federal law. The purpose of a 504 Plan is to level the playing field and allow a child to get the accommodations and supports needed to access the curriculum at the same level as his or her peers. These accommodations are only to level the playing field in the area of disability and not to provide additional benefit or ensure maximum progress or performance.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out me directly.

Christine DeAmbrose, Teacher In Charge 504
[email protected]
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