Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications. HBR provides a free and appropriate education for students who are eligible for a 504 plan by individually designing accommodations/modifications and or services to meet their educational needs in the same manner as their non-disabled peers.
SUPPORTING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
HBR is committed to meeting the needs of all students. Students with disabilities often require specialized accommodations to be successful. Each building has an indentified 504 Coordinator. The 504 Coordinator works closely with teachers and parents to ensure that students with disabilities have appropriate accommodations and supports to be successful in the general education setting.
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.
Section 504 states that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his 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…” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].
Who is covered under Section 504?
To be covered under Section 504, a student must be “qualified ” (which roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program, as well as state and federal law, and must have a disability) [34 C.F.R. §104.3(k)(2)]. Students with disabilities who are not found eligible for special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be considered for eligibility for a Section 504 plan.
Who is an “individual with a disability”?
As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].
What is an “impairment” as used under the Section 504 definition?
An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that “substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning-, behavior- or health-related condition. [“It should be emphasized that a physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability for purposes of Section 504 unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities” (Appendix A to Part 104, #3)].
Many students have conditions or disorders that are not readily apparent to others. They may include conditions such as specific learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy and allergies. Hidden disabilities such as low vision, poor hearing, heart disease or chronic illness may not be obvious, but if they substantially limit that child’s ability to receive an appropriate education as defined by Section 504, they may be considered to have an “impairment” under Section 504 standards. As a result, these students, regardless of their intelligence, will be unable to fully demonstrate their ability or attain educational benefits equal to that of non-disabled students (The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973—Pamphlet). The definition does not set forth a list of specific diseases, conditions or disorders that constitute impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list. While the definition of a disabled person also includes specific limitations on what persons are classified as disabled under the regulations, it also specifies that only physical and mental impairments are included, thus “environmental, cultural and economic disadvantage are not in themselves covered” (Appendix A to Part 104, #3).
How do I request a 504 evaluation for my child?
If your child has a disability that substantially limits one or more life activities, he or she may qualify for a 504 plan. You may request a 504 evaluation by contacting your child’s teacher or building principal. Your child will then be referred to the building level problem solving team. A member of the team will set up a meeting with you to discuss your concerns.