If your child has a physical or mental disability, they may be eligible for a 504 Plan. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; and guarantees individuals with disabilities equal access to an education.
In addition to Section 504 Plans, disability rights violations are covered under Section 504 and are investigated by the Federal Office of Civil rights (see last bullet point for more info on OCR complaints).
What is a 504 Plan?
A plan that lists the accommodations a school will provide (like audiobooks, note-taking aids, or extended time to complete tests) so that a student with a disability has equal access to the general education curriculum.
Who is eligible for a 504 Plan?
To qualify for special education services under IDEA, a student needs to meet the eligibility requirements in one of 13 categories. The definition of disability under Section 504 is different. Section 504 defines disability as having a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one of more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. Often, if a child does not qualify for special education services, parents look into a 504 Plan.
If you think your child should receive services under Section 504, 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. Also, request a copy of your school district’s policies and procedures on Section 504.
What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?
A 504 Plan is not an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP requires more specialized instruction. Section 504 does not provide funding for special education or related services. Check out this helpful chart to see some differences:
If a child needs extra support or help to learn or help accessing learning, he/she may need adaptions. “Adaptation” refers to both accommodations and modifications.
What does a 504 Plan look like?
A 504 Plan is a written document created for students with disabilities who require modifications and/or accommodations to be successful in the classroom. Here are some sample plans to look at:
- Sample 504 Plan Accomodations
- 504 Plan Templates and Suggested Accommodations
- Developing a 504 Plan
- Disability Specific Information
Should my child have an IEP and a 504 plan?
All children with an IEP have already been identified as having a disability and therefore cannot be discriminated against because of their disability under Section 504/Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Usually, a separate 504 plan is not written for students with IEPs, as the information that would go into a 504 Plan are part of the IEP.
What if I disagree? What rights do I have?
Local school districts are responsible for implementing 504 Plans, a first step is to contact the Section 504 coordinator at your school. Section 504 complaints are handled by the Office of Civil Rights.
- Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools is available to clarify the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of educational institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn.
- Case Processing Manual provides OCR with the procedures to promptly and effectively investigate and resolve complaints, compliance reviews and directed investigations to ensure compliance with the civil rights laws enforced by OCR.
What protections through OCR are there for kids with an IEP?
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) protects the rights of persons with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities operated by recipients of federal funds.
It states: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…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…”
- Section 504 complaints are handled by the Office of Civil Rights.
OCR does not enforce IDEA, OCR enforces the Section 504 protections of students who receive special education services. Areas enforced by OCR include:
- Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Ensuring that students with disabilities attending public elementary and secondary schools receive regular or special education and related aids and services so that their needs are met as adequately as those of students without disabilities.
- Discipline: Ensuring that students are not inappropriately punished or disciplined for reasons related to their disability and are not subjected to discriminatorily different treatment in discipline.
- Accessibility of Technology: Requiring schools and colleges to use technology that is accessible to individuals with disabilities or to otherwise provide equal access to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology.
- Physical Accessibility of Programs, Services and Facilities: Requiring schools to make any programs, services and facilities physically accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- Harassment, Including Bullying that Rises to the Level of Harassment: Requiring schools and colleges to prevent and address harassment on the basis of disability
- Right to Equal Treatment: Requiring that schools provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in, and receive the benefits of, the institutions’ programs. This applies to such areas as admissions and recruitment; college and university housing; access to nonacademic and extracurricular activities, including extracurricular athletics; retaliation; and employment.