Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a broad civil rights law, which protects, and prohibits discrimination against, individuals with disabilities, solely by reason of their disability or disabilities. Discrimination can come in many forms, including, but not limited to, denial of services under, exclusion from participation under, inequality under, and harassment under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency.
An individual does NOT need to be eligible for special education or related services to be protected under Section 504; instead, the individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity.
As Section 504 affirms, disability is a natural part of human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to do any of the following:
1) Live independently;
2) Enjoy self-determination;
3) Make choices;
4) Contribute to society;
5) Pursue meaningful careers; and
6) Enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of American society.
29 U.S.C.§ 701(a)(3)
An “individual with a disability” under Section 504 means an individual who…
– Has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities;
– Has a record of such an impairment; or
– Is regarded as having such an impairment.
29 U.S.C. § 705(20)(B)
“Major life activities” include, but are not limited to, the following: “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”
42 U.S.C.§ 12102
Section 504 focuses on accommodations, modifications, services, and improved building accessibility to provide access to an education.
Examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Providing a barrier-free environment for the student, allowing him or her access to an elevator, wheelchair ramp, etc.
- Giving student assistance carrying school materials
- Providing student with assistive technology or other similar services
- Having a structured learning environment
- Repeating/simplifying test instructions
- Modifying schedules
- Providing readers or interpreters