Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its implementing regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or activity that receives or benefits from federal funding. Section 504 requires that disabled students be provided with a free appropriate public education including education with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.
A student is considered “qualified” under Section 504 if the student is between the ages of 3 and 22 years of age and has a disability, which is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, and learning. Some examples of impairments that may substantially limit major life activities, even with the help of medication, aids or devices are: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, allergies, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and mental illness.
In addition to providing required services and program modifications, school districts are also required to have written procedures regarding their administration of services under Section 504. These procedural safeguards include notice of the law and its applicability, an opportunity for students and their parents or guardians to examine relevant records, an impartial hearing with the student’s parents or guardians and representation by counsel, and a review procedure. The procedural safeguards used to comply with IDEA are one means of meeting this requirement.
Local school districts are responsible for implementing the provisions of Section 504. However, ultimate responsibility for enforcing the law rests with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education