Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance, and set the stage for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 504 works together with the ADA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community.
In school settings, students with identified disabilities may qualify for an individualized plan under Section 504, commonly referred to as a “504 plan.” 504 plans are designed to ensure fair and equal access to opportunities and to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability. Similar to an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a 504 plan lists the accommodations an eligible student would receive. It is individualized and based on the specific needs of the student’s disability. Eligible students only receive services through general education programs or general education–funded programs.
Who Qualifies for a Section 504 Plan?
A student must be determined to: (1) have a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more major life activities [learning is considered a major life activity]; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment.” An important consideration in determining eligibility is clarifying the specific problem students might have that would qualify them for a 504 plan. Examples of substantial life functions that, if impaired, would trigger an individual’s eligibility include breathing, walking, talking, seeing, hearing, learning, and taking care of oneself.
What Does a Section 504 Plan Contain?
Section 504 plans are often fairly short; typically only a page and a half long, though it
clearly depends on the needs of the student. Some students with medical issues may have Section 504 plans that are considerably longer. The main components of a Section 504 plan delineate the specific aids, services, and accommodations a student is expected to receive and the parties responsible. Some plans include more information, such as a description of the nature of the concern; evaluation information (identifying the student’s specific disability); the basis for determining the disability; how the disability affects a major life activity; and a list of those who attended the meeting to develop and approve the plan. Students who may require extra time, breaks, extended deadlines, or other accommodations should participate in either a focused assessment or a comprehensive evaluation, so that we can help you access the support needed. Learn more about the assessment process here.