What is Section 504?
Section 504 is the section of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, now known as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which applies to all people with disabilities (including students). It is basically a civil rights act which protects both the civil and constitutional rights of people with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits organizations which receive federal funds from discriminating against otherwise qualified individuals solely on the basis of disability.
Section 504, like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires schools to provide children with disabilities a free, appropriate public education consisting of regular or special education and related aids and services, all designed to meet the individual student’s needs and subject to adequate evaluation, placement and procedural safeguards comparable to those prescribed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Section 504 is enforced by the U. S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Section 504 standard of what constitutes “appropriate” differs from the IDEA standard of “appropriate” standard which requires the district to design a program reasonably calculated to confer educational benefit. Section 504 requires that disabled persons be provided aids, benefits or services that are as effective as those provided non-disabled persons.
How does Section 504 define “disabled”?
A person is considered “disabled” if he/she has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity. Impairments may include, but are not limited to, speech, vision, orthopedic, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, learning disabilities, autism, heart disease, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, diabetes, chronic asthma, severe allergies, attention deficit (with or without hyperactivity) disorder, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, blood-born diseases and other health impairments.
What does “reasonable accommodation” mean?
A recipient of federal funds shall make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified person unless the recipient (school district) can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose undue hardship on the operation of its program. Courts have required accommodations which achieve “meaningful equal opportunity”. Accommodations need to take into account both the functional limitations of the individual and alternative methods of performing tasks or activities which would permit people of varying abilities to participate without jeopardizing outcomes. Some examples of reasonable accommodations for a school could be: modified homework assignments, provision of readers, and provision of taped textbooks, changes in the way tests are given or preferential seating.
Does Section 504 require an Individualized Education Program?
Section 504 requires a written plan to determine the accommodations which will be provided. Decisions must be based upon information drawn from a variety of sources and all information must be documented and considered. A written plan for a student with a Section 504 accommodation is not as stringent as a plan for a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). However, all decisions must be made by a group of people knowledgeable about the student.
Who should I contact if I believe my child requires a Section 504 accommodation plan?
Please contact the building principal to express your concern for your child. A section 504 accommodation plan will require documentation from your child’s physician as well as educational data in order for the Intervention Assistance Team to determine accommodations which may be needed.
All records are considered confidential and are maintained by the Department of Special Services. If you have a specific questions regarding Section 504 please contact the Compliance Officer at 330-798-1111.