What is Section 504?
Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal civil rights law that guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. It is meant to eliminate discrimination based on disability. The law gives individuals with disabilities access and the right to fully participate in a "free and appropriate education" (FAPE) and is designed to make sure educational needs are met as they would be without a disability.
Are All Schools Required to Provide Section 504 Plans?
All schools that receive federal funds are required to provide Section 504 plans to anyone who is determined eligible. Students who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (learning is considered a major life activity) may be eligible for Section 504.
Is Section 504 Different Than an IEP?
IEPs are provided under the IDEA , which is an educational benefit law. Section 504 is governed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is a civil rights law. Both laws provide services to students with disabilities, however, under IDEA the definition of a disability is much more restrictive but under this law, there are services and protections that might not be available under Section 504. Another difference is that under IDEA, the services provided must result in an academic improvement. Under Section 504, accommodations can be provided but it does not require that a student improve. Both laws require that the student is placed in the least restrictive environment.
Do All Children with ADHD Qualify for Section 504?
A diagnosis of ADHD does not automatically qualify a child for accommodations under Section 504. Eligibility is based on whether your child has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits his ability to learn or behave appropriately.
What is a "Reasonable Accommodation"?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification to a task, environment or a way of doing things to all children with disabilities to participate in school and have access to information and instruction. Reasonable accommodations, under Section 504, do not include changes to the way students are graded.
What Types of Accommodations Are Available Under Section 504?
Accommodations are based on your child’s individual needs, meaning, that accommodations for one child might not be the same as those provided for a different child. Some common accommodations for children with ADHD include:
- Extra time for tests
- Preferential seating
- Daily or weekly communication with parents
- Oral tests
- Completing seatwork at home, without an effect on grading
- Reduction of homework or seatwork
If your child is found to be eligible for Section 504, you will be encouraged to attend a meeting with teachers and other school personnel. During this meeting, you will discuss the types of accommodations that would benefit your child and a document detailing the accommodations will be put into place. This document is legally binding.
How Do I Request a Section 504 for my Child?
You should write a letter to the school asking for an evaluation to determine if your child’s ADHD substantially limits his education, learning or behavior. In this letter you should provide information outlining your child’s disability (although a diagnosis of ADHD is not required, it does make the process easier) and the problems he is experiencing in school.
If I Request an Evaluation, Is the School Required to Complete an Evaluation?
A school is not required to complete an evaluation based on your letter or request. If the school does not believe your child is eligible, they can deny your request for an assessment. If this happens, the school must notify you of their decision and provide you of your right to appeal.
How often is a Section 504 Reviewed?
The law does not specify how often a Section 504 is to be reviewed, however, many schools opt to review them on an annual basis. During your initial Section 504 meeting, you should ask the school personnel how often you should expect to have a review.
What Should I Do if the School Doesn’t Follow the Section 504?
Section 504 is enforced by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR). If you wish to file a complaint against your school, you should contact your regional office of the OCR, call the OCR Hotline at 800-421-3481 or file an online complaint form.
"Section 504," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, National Resource Center on ADHD
"Section 504: Guidelines for Educators and Administrators for Implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973," 2010, Staff Writer, U.S. Department of Education
"Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Handbook of Common Questions," Date Unknown, David M. Hales, M.ED., Weber State University
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.