Section 504

What is Section 504?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Section 504 provides that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. . . ." ( ).

The Office of Civil Rights (ORC) enforces Section 504 in public school districts and other state and local education agencies. The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide equal access to both physical and academic services, programs, and activities offered by the school to each qualified student with a disability. Services may consist 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. An impairment and/or medical diagnosis in and of itself is not a disability. To be protected under Section 504, the impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. CEVS draws from a variety of sources in the Section 504 evaluation process. 

What is the difference between Section 504 and IDEA?

There are significant differences between Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Section 504 is a civil rights law, whereas IDEA is an educational benefit law. Section 504 is designed to level the playing field for individuals with disabilities. It does this by eliminating barriers that exclude individuals with disabilities from participating in protected activities. As an educational benefit law, IDEA offers additional services and protections for those with disabilities that are not offered to those without disabilities.

These laws are also distinguished by their different eligibility requirements and the provided benefits. The definition of a disability is much broader under Section 504 than it is under IDEA. All IDEA students are covered by Section 504, whereas not all Section 504 students are protected under IDEA. An IEP, which is provided to students covered by IDEA, must be tailored to the child's unique needs and must result in educational benefit. However, a Section 504 Plan provides accommodations based on the child's disability and resulting weaknesses, but does not require academic improvement. Additionally, fewer procedural safeguards are offered to children and parents under Section 504 than under IDEA.

Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, December 2016.

For additional information on Section 504, you may contact the Office for Civil Rights .

You may view Section 504 District Plan here.