Student Services » Section 504

Section 504

What is Section 504? 

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights act that requires that appropriate accommodations are made for disabled students.  It states that no person with a disability can be excluded from or denied benefits of any program receiving federal financial assistance.  

Unlike the Individual with Disabilities Act of 2004, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides no funding for special programs or services.

The process for 504 Plan development and review includes assessment and establishment of eligibility.  A Student Study Team (SST) meeting will be held to discuss the student’s educational needs and to gather evidence of disability, to decide whether the student is substantially limited in at least one major life activity, and to develop an assessment plan.  Parents will be notified of all assessments, meetings, and plan development.

A disabled student is a student who

(1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

(2) has a history of having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities

3) is regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

Physical impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal, special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine. 

Mental impairment means any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. 

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, walking, breathing, learning, seeing, speaking, working, performing manual tasks, hearing, self-care, concentrating, or thinking.  Attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, auditory or visual processing disorder, asthma, and diabetes are common examples.

Definition of "Substantially Limited"

Section 504 regulations do not define the word substantially, but have “left it up to each district to define.”   However, the Office of Civil Rights has said that the term has been interpreted to require an important and material limitation and that school districts must decide whether a particular impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

Substantially limits shall be determined without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures other than ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses.  Mitigating measures include, but are not limited to, medications, prosthetic devices, and assistive devices which an individual may use to eliminate or reduce the effects of an impairment. 

Report card grades of A’s, B’s, and some C’s,  standardized achievement test scores in the average range and above, appropriate behavior, and regular school attendance do not constitute a disability in learning that is considered substantial.  If the child has problems in only one area, such as written language or math calculation, there is a good chance that the team will find he/she does not have a disability that substantially limits his/her learning.  For 504 purposes, the team will compare the child to the average child without disabilities in the United States, not to his/her own ability level.