Section 504 Defined
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with handicaps. Section 504 regulation defines an individual with handicaps as any person who may have:
- a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
- have a record of such an impairment; or
- be regarded as having such impairment.
The key factor in determining whether a person is considered an “individual with handicaps” covered by Section 504 is whether the physical or mental impairment results in a substantial limitation of one or more of the person’s major life activities (see major life activities).
Section 504 provides certain protections to students who may not qualify for special education. In general, Section 504 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all programs and activities conducted by recipients of federal financial assistance. Section 504 requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions. FAPE refers to the provision of general or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met and is based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the Section 504 requirements pertaining to educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards.
Being regarded by someone, for example the child’s doctor or parent/guardian, as handicapped/ disabled is not sufficient to trigger the requirements for evaluation. It is the building response to intervention team’s obligation upon receiving this information to determine if there is reason to believe that this child, because of an actual disability, may need general classroom accommodations or special education and related aids and services, and as a result will need to be evaluated. The opinion of the doctor or the parent/guardian is a piece of information to be considered in that decision. While a full evaluation may not be necessary for an appropriate decision to be reached, school staff must obtain and review sufficient and credible information to substantiate their decision.
Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine. This definition includes such diseases and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impediments; cerebral palsy; epilepsy; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; cancer; heart disease; diabetes; attention deficit disorder (ADD); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); and human immune deficiency virus (HIV+).
Temporary disabilities are expressly not covered under Section 504. A student shall not be regarded as having a disability if the disability is transitory and minor. Transitory is defined as an impairment with an actual or expected duration of six (6) months or less.
504 Accommodation Plan Programming
Most students would benefit from accommodations in the learning environment. A 504 Accommodation Plan is not meant for every single child who may be identified as having an impairment. Instead, it is meant for those who have an impairment that substantially impacts their lives in school. A 504 Accommodation Plan is necessary when a child’s needs are not being met by the classroom teacher. A 504 Accommodation Plan is not required for a teacher to provide an accommodation because great teachers provide accommodations for their students through differentiation and individualization.
A 504 Accommodation Plan is not special education. A student who has a 504 is still with his or her peers the entire day with no access to special education. The person most responsible for following a 504 Accommodation Plan is the classroom teacher.
If you have any questions regarding 504 Accommodation Plans, please contact Dr. Tim Wade, Director of Student Services, at (845) 292-5400 ext. 5113.