Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal nondiscrimination statute which offers protection to persons with disabilities. Unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 is not an affirmative action statute. Rather, it aims only to "level the playing field" by providing equal opportunity and access. Section 504 does not call for the lowering of academic standards or the modification of the student's program or curriculum.
A person qualifies for a 504 plan if he or she has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities and the impairment must negatively impact the child's education. Major life activities include caring for one's self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, eating, learning, and working. When a condition does not substantially limit a major life activity, then the individual does not qualify under Section 504.
Some possible categories where Section 504 might apply could be: asthma, HIV, Tourette's syndrome, ADD/ADHD, alcoholism, heart malfunctions, communicable diseases, blood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, drug addictions, respiratory conditions, epilepsy, cancer, birth defects, etc.
Students who do qualify for a 504 plan may receive services and accommodations to assist them in their educational advancement. Examples of accommodations include: building accommodations, classroom accommodations, alternative testing procedures, support services, environmental accommodations and organizational strategies.
The process is very similar to the special education process and is shown as follows:
Student is referred by teacher, support staff, parent/legal guardian, physician, or therapist
A 504 plan meeting is held and eligibility determined (based on evaluation results, educational history, etc.)
If eligible, a plan for the student is developed
Who is involved in the process?
The student, parent/legal guardian, teachers, principals, 504 Coordinator, support staff (i.e. nurse, counselor, psychologist) as well as the student's physician or therapist may be involved in the 504 meeting and development of the 504 Accommodation Plan.
What accommodations might be included in the 504 plan?
A child's seat assignment accommodates a disability.
A child may be permitted to go to the health office for the administration of medication.
A student's assignments or testing conditions may be adjusted (i.e. extensions of time, modification of test questions).
The differences between 504 and special education are listed below:
* Civil Rights Act
* Education Act
* School Funding
* Federal-State-Local Funding
* Accommodations & Services
* Individualized Education Program
* All disabilities if eligible
* 13 Federal disabilities