What is Section 504?
Section 504 is part of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was enacted by Congress to combat discrimination against individuals with disabilities in services, programs and activities administered by any entity that receives federal funds, including public schools. Section 504 states in pertinent part:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of his or her 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.
Which Students Qualify for Coverage Under Section 504?
Section 504 and the ADA provide specific protections for “qualified individuals with a disability.” There are three categories that may qualify someone as an “individual with a disability.” These are:
- A person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- A person who has a record of such an impairment; or
- A person who is regarded as having such impairment.
For a student to be identified under Section 504, in most circumstances the school must conclude that the child has: (1) a physical or mental impairment that (2) substantially limits (3) a major activity.