1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Section 504 - Learn about Section 504 in Public Schools


Updated June 24, 2014

Teacher calling on girl in classroom
Monashee Frantz/OJO Images/Getty Images

Section 504 - What is Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act:

Section 504, as it is often called, is a civil rights law that covers the rights of all individuals with disabilities, not just school-aged children. It prohibits disability discrimination by any program or activity that receives federal funds. For example, it applies to public schools, colleges, and vocational programs. State and local government agencies and programs, public services, are also covered. Section 504 has significant differences from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Section 504 - Who Qualifies for Section 504 in Public Education Programs:

Section 504 - Schools are required to provide appropriate, reasonable adaptations and modifications for individuals who have disabilities, have a record of disabilities, or are regarded as having disabilities that substantially affect a major life function such as physical or mental functioning. Consequently, this law covers a very broad range of potential disabilities. Learning disabled students who receive specially designed instruction are automatically covered under Section 504.

Section 504 - What does Section 504 Require Schools to Do:

Section 504 Requires:

  • Districts must provide students with disabilities the same opportunity to succeed in school as they provide to students without disabilities;
  • School programs must be accessible to people with disabilities. Reasonable adaptations and modifications must be made for instructional purposes; and
  • School facilities must be accessible, as in making meetings and classes accessible for wheelchair use.

Section 504 - What is a Section 504 Plan:

Section 504 - For students with a physical or mental impairment who do not meet the more stringent requirements for special education services, a 504 Plan may be an alternative if the disability is substantial.

A 504 Plan has accommodations, is developed by a 504 committee, and must be implemented by school staff. If you suspect your child has a disability that may qualify, call the 504 coordinator in your district to request a meeting to request a meeting to discuss your child's needs and the possibility of an evaluation.

Section 504 - Does Section 504 Apply to Private Schools and Agencies:

In some cases section 504 applies. If the private school receives any form of federal funding or benefits from federally funded programs or facilities, then it is required to comply with Section 504. Some private schools, for example, may receive federal assistance with meal programs for students.

Section 504 - Are There Limitations on What Schools Must Provide:

Yes. Schools are only required to implement reasonable accommodations and adaptations. If a requested accommodation is too costly for the program, it may legitimately seek a less expensive alternative. Schools are not required to pay for personal use items such as a student's glasses. They are required, however, to provide adaptive materials or technology that may be needed by a student with a visual impairment in the classroom.

Section 504 - For More Information on Section 504:

For more information about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, contact the Office of Civil Rights, United States Department of Education, The Wanamaker Building, Suite 515, 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. This office can either address your issues or connect you with one of the regional offices governing your state. Find the text of the 2008 revisions of Section 504 here.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.