Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. This law applies to, among other entities, public elementary and secondary schools. Children with disabilities may be eligible for special education and related services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. That's because Section 504's definition of disability is broader than the IDEA's definition. Information on what the law requires of school districts can be found in the following resources:


To be eligible for protections under Section 504, a child must:

  • Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Have a record of a disability; or
  • Is regarded as disabled by others.

Section 504 covers a wide range of disabilities including emotional or mental illness, ADD / ADHD, orthopedic conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, organic brain syndrome, learning disabilities and mental retardation.

The nature and severity of the disability will be considered in determining if it substantially limits at least one major life activity and requires accommodations and modifications through the development of a 504 Plan. A major life activity includes learning, walking, seeing, hearing speaking, breathing, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks.

Determining eligibility for services under Section 504 is a team decision. Team members often include teachers, school administrators, school psychologist, counselor, therapists, the parent and the child, if appropriate. If you have results from psychological or psychiatric evaluations, information about medications or input from your child's physician, you should consider sharing this with the team.

504 Plan

A 504 Plan is a legal document that ensures a free appropriate public education. It identifies reasonable accommodations and modifications based on the child's individual needs. Some examples can include preferential seating, additional time for assignments and tests, modified workbooks and textbooks, tape recorders, computers, notes, audiovisual equipment, oral testing, extra set of textbooks for home, additional rest and bathroom breaks, organizational strategies, communication systems, Individual Health Plan, behavior modification plans and breaking assignments down into manageable parts. The 504 Plan is reviewed periodically by the team.

Appeals Process

School districts are required to have impartial hearings to resolve conflicts. If problems are not solved, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights.


Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
OCR Overview of the Agency
OCR information on disability discrimination
OCR also offers many technical assistance documents helpful when disability is involved.