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U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student's individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SECTION 504 AND THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
What services are available for students with disabilities under Section 504?
Section 504 requires recipients to provide to students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of such students to the same extent as the needs of students without disabilities are met. An appropriate education for a student with a disability under the Section 504 regulations could consist of education in regular classrooms, education in regular classes with supplementary services, and/or special education and related services.
I. STUDENTS PROTECTED UNDER SECTION 504
Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving Federal financial assistance. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:
(1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
(2) have a record of such an impairment; or
(3) be regarded as having such an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
What is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity?
The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity must be made on the basis of an individual inquiry.
The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i) defines a physical or mental impairment as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems:
• special sense organs;
• respiratory, including speech organs;
• hemic and lymphatic;
• and endocrine; or
• any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
The regulatory provision does not set forth an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list.
Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as:
• caring for one's self,
• performing manual tasks,
• and working.
This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504.
In the Amendments Act, Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including:
• and communicating.
Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of "major bodily functions" that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
Is attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a recognized disability under Section 504?
Yes. The Department of Education has acknowledged that ADD and ADHD are impairments that can be the basis of eligibility under either Section 504 or IDEA. The key to eligibility under 504 is whether the student's ADD or ADHD is sufficiently severe that it substantially limits a major life activity, e.g. learning.
Does a physician's diagnosis of ADD/ADHD automatically result in a student being eligible for Section 504?
No. A physician's diagnosis alone does not automatically result in eligibility for programs or services under Section 504. A physician's diagnosis should be considered as one piece of the evidence when evaluating the child.
Once a student is identified as eligible for services under Section 504, is that student always entitled to such services?
Yes, as long as the student remains eligible. The protections of Section 504 extend only to individuals who meet the regulatory definition of a person with a disability. If a recipient school district re-evaluates a student in accordance with the Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.35 and determines that the student's mental or physical impairment no longer substantially limits his/her ability to learn or any other major life activity, the student is no longer eligible for services under Section 504.
The following terms may be confusing and/or are frequently used incorrectly in the elementary and secondary school context.
Equal access: equal opportunity of a qualified person with a disability to participate in or benefit from educational aid, benefits, or services
Free appropriate public education (FAPE): a term used in the elementary and secondary school context; for purposes of Section 504, refers to the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met and is based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the Section 504 requirements pertaining to educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards
Placement: a term used in the elementary and secondary school context; refers to regular and/or special educational program in which a student receives educational and/or related services
Reasonable accommodation: a term used in the employment context to refer to modifications or adjustments employers make to a job application process, the work environment, the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, or that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment; this term is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to related aids and services in the elementary and secondary school context or to refer to academic adjustments, reasonable modifications, and auxiliary aids and services in the postsecondary school context
Reasonable modifications: under a regulatory provision implementing Title II of the ADA, public entities are required to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity
Related services: a term used in the elementary and secondary school context to refer to developmental, corrective, and other supportive services, including psychological, counseling and medical diagnostic services and transportation