Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It is a federal anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of their non-disabled peers. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals by school districts receiving federal financial assistance. It requires that schools provide access to a “free, appropriate public education” (FAPE) for disabled students.
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 qualifies as a student with a disability for Section 504?
The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such an individual; a record of having such an impairment; or being regarded as having an impairment.
What is an impairment as used under Section 504?
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. Section 504 regulations do not specify a list of specific diseases and conditions that constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list. Some of the most common conditions include: dyslexia, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, asthma, severe allergies, auto-immune disorders, epilepsy, learning disabilities, neurological impairments, etc.
What is a Substantial Limitation?
There is no legal definition of “substantial limitation”. That determination should be left to the District and Section 504 committee’s review of appropriate data. The data must enable the SAT to answer the following identification questions: Is there physical or mental impairment? What major life activity does it affect? Does it substantially limit the performance of that major activity (or would it do so if not for “mitigating measures”)?
What is a Major Life Activity?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to:Caring for Oneself, Performing Manual Tasks, Seeing, Hearing, Eating, Sleeping, Walking, Standing, Lifting, Bending, Speaking, Breathing, Learning, Reading, Concentrating, Thinking, Communicating, Working.
What is the eligibility determination process?
A teacher or parent should refer a student for a 504 evaluation if he/she suspects a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, but does not require “special education.” With regard to eligibility determination, the Section 504 regulations state: “In interpreting evaluation data and in making placement decisions, a recipient shall . . . ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options, and ensure that the placement decision is in conformity with 104.34 [regarding LRE].” 34 C.F.R. § 104.35. In Brownsboro ISD, that group of people is known as the 504 Committee.
How are accommodations decided?
Individualized accommodations should be determined by the Section 504 Committee. The accommodation plan should provide a road map for students to be educated along with their peers with the services, accommodations, or educational aids they might need to receive equal access to educational programs.
What are the most common accommodations provided under Section 504?
Common Accommodations include but are not limited to:
- Accommodations based on the student’s disability and the 504 Committee’s evaluation to allow equal access to the educational environment.
- Accommodations on STAAR testing based on daily accommodations that are routinely and effectively used in the general education classroom and allowable by TEA.
- Accommodations to the school environment as required by the disability.
- Behavioral accommodations when appropriate.
- Medical/Physical accommodations based on the student’s individual health plan.
- Homebound services for general education students when appropriate.
- Other services as appropriate and allowable determined by the Section 504 Committee.