What is Section 504?

Section 504

of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

While Special Education (IDEA) is an entitlement program (that is, a program that provides services to a student based on that student meeting certain eligibility criteria), section 504 is an anti-discrimination law.

 

 

Definitions

 

Section 504 uses the term “handicapped person” to define those who are protected by this law. It covers many more individuals
than the IDEA. A handicapped person is:

 

 

 

Any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.

 

Physical or mental impairment means (A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs: respiratory,
including speech and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or (B) any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

 

Major life activities means functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.”

 

 

Some students not covered by the IDEA may be protected by Section 504.

 

 

Adapted from: Special Education and the Law, A Legal Guide for Families and Educators--What Parents and Educators Should Know About the Laws and Court Decisions That Affect the Education of Students with Disabilities in Washington State (2/98) reprinted October 2002.