The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly known in the schools as “Section 504,” is a federal law passed by the United States Congress with the purpose of prohibiting discrimination against disabled persons who may participate in, or receive benefits from, programs receiving federal financial assistance. In the public schools specifically, §504 applies to ensure that eligible disabled students are provided with educational benefits and opportunities equal to those provided to non-disabled students.
Under §504, a student is considered “disabled” if he or she suffers from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Section 504 also protects students with a record of an impairment, or who are regarded as having an impairment from discrimination on the basis of disability. Students can be considered disabled, and can receive services under §504, including regular or special education and related aids and services, even if they do not qualify for, or receive, special education services under the IDEA.
Procedures are followed by a knowledgeable committee in making decisions regarding this federal law. To be eligible for Section 504 the committee must identify:
- physical or mental impairment
- substantial limitation
- impact on educational performance