What is Section 504?
Section 504 is the more commonly used term for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a national law that defines the rights of persons with disabilities. Section 504 aims to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability.
Section 504 applies to institutions such as public schools, colleges, and organizations providing vocational programs. It covers public services and government agencies. Section 504 also covers employers as well as private schools and agencies that receive federal funding or support.
Brief History of Section 504
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was put into law in 1977. As with other laws, Section 504 was implemented by the U.S. Congress. Section 504 was instrumental in the establishment of major disability laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Initially, Section 504 was applied only in physical access to public institutions. This included tactile buttons in elevators and wheelchair ramps. However, the definition of Section 504 expanded in time.
Today the definition of Section 504 includes both physical access and special adaptations. These special adaptations include assistive technologies, modified tasks, and support for medical needs related to a person’s ability to learn.
Section 504 Requirements
Institutions covered by Section 504 are required to:
- Provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to succeed in life as with non-disabled individuals
- Provide programs that are accessible to persons with disabilities
- Provide facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities
Section 504 Qualifications
A person, who has a disability that significantly affects a life function, may be qualified to receive support related to Section 504. Examples of life functions include:
- caring for one's self
- performing manual tasks
For instance, Section 504 covers students with learning disabilities that require special or modified instructions. A person who has a proven record of a disability also qualifies for Section 504 support.
In terms of employment, Section 504 states that a qualified person with a disability must also meet normal and essential requirements. These include the essential functions of the job the person has applied for or was given.
Limitations of Section 504
Section 504 does not include support for an individual’s personal items such as eyeglasses. Schools and agencies may consider less expensive alternatives in place of accommodation requests that are too costly.
How to Acquire Section 504 Support
An individual who wishes to acquire Section 504 support must do the following steps:
- Request for an evaluation from the school or agency. This evaluation determines if the individual’s disability significantly impacts the individual’s learning or behavior.
- Request a copy of the district’s policies related to Section 504. This document discusses the rights and responsibilities of the individual and the institution while the support is being provided.
Parents of children with disabilities may perform these tasks on behalf of their children.