Rehabilitation Act Section 504 Summary

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights statute which provides that: "No otherwise qualified individual with disabilities in the United States.....shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance...." A person is disabled under Section 504 if (1) he or she has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

    For educational purposes, Section 504 applies to students who currently are determined to be impaired in a major life activity such as learning. In other words, the student has a disability that significantly limits his or her ability to participate in and/or benefit from school. The application of Section 504 in the school setting is to ensure a free, appropriate public education by providing reasonable accommodation for disabilities to otherwise qualified students.

    The determination of current disability is done by a team of persons knowledgeable about the student and the suspected disability. There are no specific tests or procedures specified for a Section 504 evaluation.

    If it is determined that a physical or mental impairment exists, the next step is to determine whether the impairment significantly limits the student’s ability to participate in and/or benefit from school. A student may have a disability, but may have developed compensatory skills that reduce the impact of the disability. An example is a student with an attention deficit disorder who has developed study habits and memory strategies so that he or she is able to earn A’s and B’s in general education academic classes. The disorder exists, but learning is not substantially affected; therefore, the student is not considered disabled and is not eligible for accommodation under Section 504.

    If it is determined that a student has a disability that substantially limits his/her ability to benefit from and/or participate in school, the next step is the development of a 504 Plan. Section 504 requires that persons with disabilities be provided aids, benefits, or services that are as effective as those provided non disabled persons, and that allow the student to fully participate in the general education classroom. Section 504 requires the district to provide accommodations that remove barriers that stand in the way of students demonstrating what they know and what they can do. These accommodations would be identified in the 504 Plan.

    If a student, parent, teacher, counselor, or administrator believes they are observing a student with a disability that substantially limits his/her ability to benefit from and/or participate in school, he or she should contact the school psychologist and discuss a possible referral for a 504 evaluation. For additional information, call the Student Services Office, 368-4117.