How are eligible students with a disability under Section 504 identified?
Section 504 protects an individual whose physical or mental disability which substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, focusing, concentrating, or learning. It protects students when their disabilities limit their ability to attend, participate in, or receive benefit from their education. These provisions protect individuals with disabilities far beyond those covered by IDEA, and they also protect every student who is eligible for IDEA. Section 504 does not specifically list qualifying disabilities. Although, it does list examples. These include: diseases and conditions involving orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments; cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental retardation, emotional illness, drug addiction and alcoholism. HIV/AIDS, learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, cystic fibrosis, severe allergies and asthma, among others, have also been recognized. In all cases, the eligibility decision focuses on how much the disability limits a major life activity and whether the individual is unable to perform an activity that the average person in the general population can do. If your child has a chronic condition or if you suspect he/she may have a disability, then you should inform your child’s teacher, principal, or building 504 Coordinator. Following a referral, the 504 team will meet to evaluate and determine the student’s eligibility.
Services and Accommodations
If a student is found to have a disability (under Section 504), that substantially impacts a major life activity, the 504 team will make an individualized determination of the student’s educational needs and an accommodation plan will be developed. Section 504 directs services and placement in the least restrictive environment. Most accommodations are provided in the regular education classroom. Eligibility status and 504 plans must be reviewed annually by district policy. They may also be reviewed more frequently if the 504 team determines this is necessary. Accommodations should be designed to minimize the impact of student’s disability and meet the unique needs of the student. They are determined individually for each student. Examples include: preferential seating to minimize distractions for a student with ADHD or similar condition; preferential seating for a student with visual impairments;
Parental Rights under Section 504
• Have your child take part in, and receive benefit from, public education programs without discrimination based on disability.
• Have the school advise you of your rights under federal disability law.
• Receive notice and examine records with respect to the identification, evaluation, and placement of your child.
• Have your child receive (FAPE). This includes the right to be educated with other nondisabled children to the greatest extent possible. It also includes the right to have the school make reasonable accommodations to allow your student an equal opportunity to participate in school related activities.
• Have evaluation, educational and placement decisions made based upon a variety of information sources, and by individuals who know your child, the disability, the evaluation data and placement options.
• Request a due process hearing and/or the assistance of a mediator to help resolve issues with the school’s decisions.
• File a formal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).