Section 504 FAQs
Who qualifies as a student with a disability for Section 504?
The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual –
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such an individual;
- A record of having such an impairment; OR
- Being regarded as having an impairment.
What is an impairment as used under Section 504?
An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorders that “substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning-, behavior- or health-related condition. Section 504 regulations do not specify a list of specific diseases and conditions that constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list. Some of the most common conditions include: dyslexia, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, asthma, severe allergies, auto-immune disorders, epilepsy, learning disabilities, neurological impairments, etc.
What is a Substantial Limitation?
There is no legal definition of “substantial limitation”. That determination should be left to the District and Section 504 committee’s review of appropriate data. The data must enable the Section 504 Committee to answer the following identification questions:
- Is there physical or mental impairment?
- What major life activity does it affect?
- Does it substantially limit the performance of that major activity (or would it do so if not for “mitigating measures”)?
What is a Major Life Activity?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: Caring for Oneself, Performing Manual Tasks, Seeing, Hearing, Eating, Sleeping, Walking, Standing, Lifting, Bending, Speaking, Breathing, Learning, Reading, Concentrating, Thinking, Communicating, Working.
What is the eligibility determination process?
The Campus or Parent should refer a student for a 504 evaluation if the team suspects a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, but does not require “special education.”
With regard to eligibility determination, the Section 504 regulations state: “In interpreting evaluation data and in making placement decisions, a recipient shall . . . ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options, and ensure that the placement decision is in conformity with 104.34 [regarding LRE].” 34 C.F.R. § 104.35. In Carroll ISD that group of people is known as the Section 504 Committee.
How are accommodations decided?
Individualized accommodations should be determined by the Section 504 Committee. The accommodation plan should provide a road map for students to be educated along with their peers with the services, accommodations, or educational aids they might need to receive equal access to educational programs.
What are the most common accommodations provided under Section 504?
Common Accommodations include:
- Accommodations based on the student’s disability and the 504 Committee’s evaluation to allow equal access to the educational environment.
- Accommodations on STAAR testing based on daily accommodations that are routinely and effectively used in the general education classroom and allowable by TEA.
- Accommodations to the school environment as required by the disability.
- Behavioral accommodations when appropriate.
- Medical/Physical accommodations based on the student’s individual health plan.
- Homebound services for general education students when appropriate.
- Other services as appropriate and allowable determined by the Section 504 Committee.
Relationship with Section 504 and IDEA
Please note that Section 504, a civil rights law, is different from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), a funding statute. Both the IDEA and Section 504 guarantee students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education. However, there are major differences between them, specifically in the criteria used to determine eligibility and the definition of a free and appropriate public education. For a student to receive special education services under the IDEA, the student’s educational performance must be adversely affected by the disability and the child must be in need of special education services (i.e. specially designed instruction). Section 504 is not limited to specific disability categories and does not require evidence that the disability adversely affects the student’s educational performance. Students who are found not to be eligible for services under the IDEA may be eligible for accommodations under Section 504.
While students who are eligible under IDEA are also often considered to be students with disabilities protected from discrimination under Section 504, all accommodations for the student’s disability are made through the IDEA process. Students who qualify for special education programs and services with a disability listed in the IDEA have their educational plan written in an IEP. That is, a student should not have an Individualized Education Program or “IEP” under the IDEA and also a 504 Plan. Moreover, the Section 504 plan usually outlines the accommodations and services that will allow a child to access the curriculum. A Section 504 plan is less specific than an IEP.