Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a critical piece of legislation designed to protect individuals with disabilities.
In this video, we will explore the components of Section 504 as well as how it impacts school-aged students.
What Is Section 504?
It is highly possible that if you were to hang around teachers for any length of time, you might just hear this exact conversation.’Does Billy have an IEP?”No, but he does have a 504, so we will need to take a look at his accommodations and modifications.
‘Now, if you were to hear that conversation, you shouldn’t feel bad if you find yourself scratching your head in confusion. One of the most difficult aspects of the world of special education is understanding the language. So, let’s break that conversation down a bit.An IEP is the abbreviation for an individualized education plan or program. It is the foundation document that outlines the way students who receive special education services will be educated. However, contrary to popular belief, not all students with disabilities qualify for special education services.
This is where Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 comes into play. Section 504 is actually a civil rights law designed to prohibit the discrimination of any individual with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act by any program that receives federal financial assistance.Whew! What a mouthful! Now, Section 504 doesn’t just apply to school settings. It applies to employment opportunities as well, but for the purpose of our lesson, we’re going to focus on the role of Section 504 in schools. In schools, Section 504 is actually a helpful piece of legislation that allows students who may not otherwise receive supportive services to receive the support they need. Section 504 is all about access to education!Let’s try and make Section 504 a little clearer by offering an outline of the basics.
Section 504: The Basics
The process of qualifying for special education can be complicated. To state it very simply, there are a number of predetermined areas through which an individual may qualify for special education services. These areas are defined and outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is the overarching federal legislation for outlining special education practices in the United States.The IDEA serves to protect students with disabilities and guarantee that they receive the services they need in public schools. Sometimes, though, these predetermined areas can be restrictive for some individuals. Some students may not meet all of the requirements set forth by IDEA in order to qualify for special education services, but they may still demonstrate areas in which they need extra support.
This is where Section 504 comes into play.Students suspected to be in need of special education services undergo an evaluation process. If the evaluation determines that a student is not eligible to receive services under IDEA guidelines, all hope is not lost. A student may still be evaluated under Section 504. In fact, the evaluation processes are quite similar, only the qualification factors are much broader under Section 504.
As stated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to qualify for service under Section 504, an individual needs to possess a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.Think of this as a sort of Venn diagram. Students who receive special education services under IDEA are also protected under Section 504.
However, these students would receive an IEP and would follow the protocols and safeguards that accompany an IEP. Students receiving services under IDEA would be included in the smaller circle of our diagram. Section 504 would be the larger circle that encompasses IDEA. Section 504 just reaches out and covers students who would otherwise slip through the cracks.Once a student is evaluated under Section 504, the process for receiving services is nearly identical to a student with an IEP, only the language shifts. Once identified, a team of professionals as well as parents and guardians, would meet to develop what is most typically referred to as a 504 Plan.
The 504 Plan will outline the student’s areas of need and offer accommodations and modifications that will be put in place to ensure that the student has an equal and adequate opportunity to receive a public education. Like an IEP, the plan will be revisited and revised on an annual basis.
In summary, Section 504 is all about protecting individuals with disabilities and ensuring that they receive equal opportunity. Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and includes a much broader set of qualifying criteria than those set forth by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In schools, students who qualify receive what is known as a 504 Plan, which is reviewed annually. This plan will allow for the appropriate accommodations and modifications necessary to ensure that the student receives a fair and appropriate education.
In short, Section 504 exists to support students who may otherwise slip through the cracks.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Recognize what Section 504 represents for a disabled student
- Identify the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- Describe the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Determine who may be on a Section 504 team