Overview of Section 504
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Congress prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in a segment most often referred to simply as “Section 504”. This was broadly worded prohibition that covers both children and adults, and it applies to programs that receive any federal financial assistance. The principles in this section were later expanded and served as the basis for the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Section 504 prohibits discrimination against individuals whose physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities, including, but not limited to:
· Caring for one’s self
· Performing manual tasks
In Section 504 legislation the act defines a personal with a disability as anyone who:
1. Has a medical or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities
2. Has a record of such impairment; or
3. Is regarded as having such an impairment.
The Pickens County School System has specific responsibilities under the Act, which include the responsibility to identify, evaluate, and if the child has a current disability and is termed to be eligible under Section 504, to afford access to appropriate education programs. This is determined by a team which can include teachers, counselors, administrators, and parent/guardians who are familiar with the student.
It is important to remember that presence of a condition in itself does not qualify an individual for Section 504 protection. The impairment must also cause a substantial limitation of a major life activity. A meeting is held and the team determines the eligibility.
What are "Substantial Limitations"?
This term is not defined in the act or the regulations and is left to each agency to define. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act suggested that the term “substantially limits” be interpreted to mean that the student “is unable to perform a major life activity that the average student of approximately the same age can perform, or that the student is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which a particular major life activity is performed as compared to the average student of approximately the same age.”
What is a “reasonable accommodation”?
Reasonable accommodation in the school setting is an accommodation or adjustment of educational programs to provide student with disabilities equal opportunity to access the programs. Reasonable accommodations must be made for persons with disabilities unless the schools can show that the requested accommodations would impose undue hardship.
Who is responsible for developing Section 504 plans in schools?
In the Pickens County School System the 504 Team is the educational team that considers 504 eligibility and creates the 504 accommodation plan for the student.