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KeywordsFederal Civil Rights Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Major Life Activities Inclusive List Special Education Services
A 504 Plan refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336), which makes it illegal to exclude anyone from a federally funded program or activity based on a disability. Section 504, a federal civil rights law, specifically prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, within any school system or other recipient of federal financial assistance. The definition of recipient is a broad one, as it can include not only schools but also states (including their Departments of Education) or counties, agencies, institutions, or other organizations that benefit from Federal funds, directly or indirectly.
A 504 plan documents accommodations for qualified students which will allow them to have opportunities similar to those of their peers. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is not a 504 plan because IEPs only cover an inclusive list of students with disabilities. A 504 plan covers a far wider range of conditions, including both those that actually limit one or more major life activities (the criterion for disability under IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and those that do not limit a major life activity but are perceived as limiting by the recipient of funding. Thus, individuals who are not eligible for special education services under IDEA may nonetheless be eligible for accommodations under Section 504. While both laws require provision of a free appropriate public education, a comprehensive evaluation is not required to obtain services under the provisions of Section 504. While IDEA provides for comprehensive evaluation at the expense of the school district, this is not the case for services requested under Section 504.
In sum, the purpose of 504 legislation is to level the playing field for those who don’t require the significant level of accommodation and/or assistance needed by those who meet criteria for an IEP under IDEA. Examples of conditions that may qualify for 504 services include asthma, diabetes, eating disorders, ADHD, depression, and conduct disorder.
References and Reading
- Smith, T. E. C., & Patton, J. R. (1998). Section 504 and the public schools. Austin: TXL Pro-Ed.Google Scholar