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Special Education: Section 504


Section 504


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Section 504 guarantees certain rights to individuals with disabilities, including the right to full participation and access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Specifically, 34 C.F.R.§104 states: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Section 504 requires the provision of appropriate educational services; services that are designed to meet the individual needs of qualified students to the same extent that the needs of students without a disability are met. Essentially Section 504 was designed to "level the playing field," to ensure full participation by individuals with disabilities.

Who Qualifies?

To qualify under Section 504 a student must: Be determined to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities including learning and behavior. Have a record of having such an impairment OR Be regarded as having such impairment.

How can Section 504 help my child?

Section 504 ensures that a qualified child with a disability has equal access to education. The child may receive appropriate accommodations and modifications tailored to the child's individual needs.

What is an "appropriate" accommodation under Section 504?

An appropriate accommodation for a student with a disability under Section 504 could entail:

education in regular classrooms,
education in regular classrooms with supplementary services, modifications
and/or accommodations,
special education and related services OR
any combination of the above.

How do I get my child covered under Section 504?

In order to receive services under Section 504, a child must first be determined to have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life functions, including education, learning, and behavior. Only the school can determine if your child qualifies for accommodations. Parents seeking to have their child receive services under Section 504 should take the following steps:

Submit a written request to the school asking for an evaluation to determine if there is a significant impact on your child's learning or behavior. Request a copy of your School District's Policies and Procedures on Section 504. This document may be referred to by various names, including Procedural Safeguards, Parental Rights or something similar. This document will inform you of your and the school's rights and responsibilities in helping your child receive the accommodations she or he needs.

How do I file a complaint about my school or school district?

Local school districts are responsible for implementing the provisions of Section 504. However, ultimate responsibility for enforcing these provisions rests with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education. If you believe that a school or school district has violated this law and efforts at the local level to resolve your complaint have not been successful, you may file a formal complaint with OCR by contacting the nearest state/regional office. You may also call the OCR Hotline at 1-800-421-3481. A complaint may also be filed using the OCR Online Complaint Form.


Links To Info On Section 504 and 504 Plans
List Compiled by Celeste Johnson


Section 504 - Helping Disabled Students - After reading a story about a young man's turmoil with Baltimore City Public Schools, John Wheeler thought this was a story he could help rewrite. Wheeler, an intake specialist attorney for Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC) has dedicated part of his career to educating parents of disabled or chronically ill students on the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


TN Sevier County Tennessee School System Section 504 Plans: Examples of Program Accommodations and Adjustments - This document contains possible examples of 504 accommodations. This is intended to be a staff document. The following examples are not offered as check lists and should never be considered as all-inclusive or mandatory listings. Rather the following are examples intended to serve as “starters” for 504 teams designing accommodation plans that meet a student’s specific needs.

Discipline Under Section 504 and the ADA (PDF) by Perry A. Zirkel, Ph.D., J.D., LL.M

Section 504 Information & Resources from the Wayne County RESA (Michigan) - click here.


Resources From a Parent Regarding Section 504

compiled by Celeste Johnson

Here are some online resources that discuss Section 504, 504 plans and the differences/similarities among IDEA, Section 504 and the ADA:


Rehabilitating Section 504 - This report provides a blueprint for addressing the shortcomings that have hindered Section 504 compliance and enforcement until now. Among the various strategies and approaches to improve Section 504, NCD recommends that the Federal Government conduct periodic and thorough Section 504 self- evaluations; improve data collection and dissemination of data about Section 504 enforcement efforts; bolster Department of Justice resources and guidance to federal agencies on Section 504 enforcement; and apply successful practices in Section 504 technical assistance and enforcement used by federal agencies.


Drawing Boundaries - The Supreme Court Is Siding With Employers and Narrowing the Reach of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Is That What its Drafters Had in Mind?


Below are links to various websites regarding the subject of Section 504:


A Parent and Educators Guide to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973  






Section 504 and IDEA: Basic Similarities and Differences  




Council of Educators for Students with Disabilities, Inc. Section 504 Q & A  


Report on the Section 504 Self-Evaluation  


"Section 504: The Law and Its Impact on Postsecondary Education" 


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