Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Special Services

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Pub. L. No. 93-112, 87 Stat. 394 (Sept. 26, 1973), is  American Legislation that guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. Section 504 is widely recognized as the first civil-rights statute for persons with disabilities.  Section 504 states (in part):


No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20) 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 or under any program or activity conducted by any federally funded program.

According to this law, Individuals with Disabilities are: "persons with a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities."  

"Substantially means to a great or significant extent."

"Major life activities include caring for one's self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, and learning."  Public school are required to provide reasonable accommodations for any student who has been identified as having a disability under the guidelines of Section 504, and require reasonable accommodations to balance the instructional environment enabling the disabled student the opportunities afforded to non-disabled students.   

"Reasonable Accommodations means a school district is required to take reasonable steps to accommodate a student's disability unless it would cause the public school undue hardship."

"The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) was passed in 1990, and uses a three-pronged approach to eligibility (1) has a physical or mental impairment, (2) has a record of an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having an impairment.  

Section 504 pertains to all local educational agencies.  Procedures prohibits the denial of public education participation or the benefits offered by public school programs because of a child’s disability.  Because another law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), also applies to K-12 schools, people sometimes mistakenly assume that with IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act is superfluous.  In fact, however, IDEA only protects a subset of children and youth who have disabilities—those who satisfy its definition for "child with a disability." Many young people with disabilities do not meet that definition.   However, many are protected by Section 504.  Parents, teachers, and school staff are a part of the process.  Parents have due process rights.  When they disagree with the determinations of the school, they have a right to an impartial hearing.  For more information on Section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act, go to  Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education.