Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Individuals with disabilities that do not qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)) may use Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to help them find accommodations for their disabilities. This page will give a brief overview of the law and its requirements.

An Antidiscrimination Law

With the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Congress required that federally funded recipients make their programs and activities accessible to all individuals with disabilities. The law states that “No qualified individual with disabilities, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects persons from discrimination based upon their disability status.
Section 504 defines disability as follows. A person with a disability:
  • Has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Has a record of such impairments; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.
Major Life Activities include functions such as:
  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Working
  • Non-volitional bodily functions

Section 504 Requirements

Section 504 requires schools to make programs and activities accessible for children and youth with disabilities, including providing physical access and special accommodations. An example of an adaptation a school might make for a student with a disability would be modifying assignments to help the child benefit from them. If a disability substantially limits one or more of a child's major life activities, then Section 504 applies.
Section 504 has three major areas of emphasis:
  1. employment;
  2. program accessibility; and
  3. requirements for preschool, elementary, and secondary education
All students in special education are also protected by Section 504, which includes a larger group of students with disabilities. Some examples of disabilities that could be covered by Section 504 include:
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Special Health Care Needs
  • Parents with hearing impairments who need an interpreter
  • Homebound students requiring services for when the disability substantially limits a major life activity.
Although Section 504 does not require school districts to develop an individualized plan with annual goals and objectives, it is recommended that schools document the services and/or accommodations that are provided for each eligible Section 504 student in a written plan. If a student requires 504 accommodations, a team must meet to develop a plan that outlines the student’s services and accommodations. Parent and student participation should always be encouraged. The quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities must be the equivalent to the services provided to students without disabilities. Parents may request a Section 504 evaluation if they believe the child qualifies under Section 504, or the child did not qualify for special education.
This content in part is taken from the Utah Parent Center handbook: Parents as Partners in the IEP Process Parent Handbook


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
From the Center for Parent Information and Resources, this page gives detailed information and answers questions about Section 504.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: July 2013; last update/revision: December 2019
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Gina Pola-Money
Reviewers: Tina Persels
Shena McAuliffe, MFA