Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a major federal legislative act that is designed to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. The intent of this act is to prevent any form of discrimination based on disabilities. Section 504 states that:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability …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. [29 USC & 794]
Section 504 requires that an individual have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity, have record of such impairment or is regarded as having such impairment. No list of specific diseases and conditions that constitute physical or mental impairments is set forth by the law. The criteria is tied to whether or not the disability “substantially limits” a major life activity such as learning.
Some children who need extra help at school in order to learn may need 504 services. Such services include specialized instruction, related aids and services or ancillary services provided by specialists (in addition to regular classroom instruction). The goal of these services is to help children make progress in the classroom or other educational setting.
Certain steps must be followed when deciding whether or not a child’s needs should be met by providing 504 services. Every attempt should be made to meet a child’s needs in the regular classroom. A team approach is used with built-in checks and balances to guarantee that children with 504 accommodations will receive the appropriate services.
Here in Tempe Elementary School District #3, we know that children benefit more from their education when their parents are involved and well informed. Parents are important team members and are entitled to participate in planning their child’s program. Parent/student rights and procedural safeguards are included as an integral part of the 504 process.