What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law, enforced by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and applies to schools (public and private) that receive any federal funds. The law requires school districts to provide qualifying students (those with diagnosed physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities) with:
- free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to the maximum extent appropriate to their needs
- reasonable accommodations to enable students to participate and learn in the general education program
- opportunities to participate in extracurricular and non-academic activities;
- opportunities commensurate with those of their non-disabled peers.
What are Section 504 Accommodations?
Section 504 accommodations are meant to "level the playing field" and provide students with disabilities equal access-not undue advantage. They include adaptations such as changes to the environment, adjustments to the manner in which instruction is delivered, variation in the ways in which students demonstrate their learning, and various other supports. Section 504 accommodations are:
- based on the student's individual needs
- determined by a school team and generally documented in a written plan
- "reasonable," meaning that the accommodations provide equal opportunity (or access) to learning, assessments and extracurricular activities, but do not place an undue burden on the school or fundamentally alter learning, assessments or extracurricular activities.
What is a 504 Plan?
A 504 Plan is a written document, usually developed by a specified team within a school, which supports the needs of an eligible student and identifies:
- a student's disability and how the physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities at school
- the basis for the team's determination of the disability (evaluation data, history, relevant input)
- the specific accommodations and person(s) responsible for implementing them.