Children with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may still be able to receive supports, services, and accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law guarantees access to general education. It says that a child with a disability should have the same educational opportunities as all other children.
In order to qualify for 504 services or accommodations, or a “504 plan,” the child’s disability must substantially limit one or more major life activities or bodily functions. For young children this can include communicating, eating, dressing, moving, seeing and learning. Children who qualify for 504 plans can include those who have allergies, asthma, chronic medical conditions, and “invisible disabilities” such as low vision, mild hearing loss, heart disease, or diabetes.
If your child is having difficulty in the classroom, talk with your child’s teacher to find out what options are available. One of the options may be a 504 plan.
The 504 plan will be developed by a team including the child’s parent, teacher, and other school personnel, such as the school nurse. The plan documents the child’s disability and how the teacher and school staff will help him have opportunities to learn, play, and develop along with his peers. Some examples may include a wheelchair ramp, a peanut-free snack and lunch environment, rest times, or an assistive technology device.
Parents who have disabilities are also entitled to the protections of Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example ECI programs and public schools must provide interpreters for parents who are deaf, and meetings and activities must be physically accessible for parents who have mobility limitations.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is an overview from Texas Project FIRST. It outlines the services available through a 504 plan and offers suggestions for when parents should ask for one.
Also from Texas Project FIRST is Accommodations vs. Modifications, which describes the differences between these adjustments, which may be part of a 504 plan.
Region 13 Education Service Center offers answers to frequently asked questions about Section 504.
The U.S. Department of Education goes in depth to explain The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
What is a 504 Plan? is a short video from the National Center for Learning Disabilities that explains how a 504 plan is developed.