504 Plans: Who Qualifies and Who Decides?

What Is a 504 Plan?

The 504 Plan refers to the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Act indicates that no individual with a disability can be excluded from joining a federally

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funded program or activity – that includes elementary, secondary and post secondary school.

By "disability," the plan means a physical or mental impairment that limits an individual from one or more major activities that occur in a typical lifestyle. These impairments can include illnesses, injuries, diseases, or chronic illness like asthma, allergy, diabetes, communication problems, learning problems, writing problems, etc.

The 504 Plan provides many facilities for those who qualify. Unfortunately, parents of those that qualify are not always aware of the options. The 504 Plan accommodates the needs of these students and provides them with opportunities that are necessary for them to be at the same level as their peers in the educational program. The facilities include wheelchair ramps, extra set of books, home instructions, specific diet lunches, blood sugar monitoring, tape recorder, or keyboard to take note, rearranging furniture for favored seating, etc.

Under Section 504 and IDEA, students who qualify must be provided with free appropriate public education that is commonly known as FAPE. For students who qualify under the FAPE, federal funds are provided to the schools for their services.

The 504 Plan is a legal written document that needs to be reviewed and updated periodically. It is the parent’s responsibility to request a meeting to do so. This should typically done at least once a year. During the drafting of the plan, parents can put in a note on how often they feel the plan should be reviewed and updated.

For more information, contact your local parent resource center. Many school districts also have a department that is responsible for the administration of the 504 Plan.

Who Decides Eligibility Under the 504 Plan?

504 Plan

The decision for qualification under the 504 Plan is made by a team. The team includes the parents of the student, the teachers, and the school head. The parents of the child are given equal importance in the decision.

The team discusses the child’s disability and determines if it influences his or her learning. In some cases, testing and evaluation needs to be carried out. For this, several meetings need to be arranged. If the team concludes, that the child has a disability, a 504 Plan is drafted to note down all modifications and accommodations.

Who Qualifies for the 504 Plan?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that “no qualified person with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives or benefits from Federal financial assistance.”

The term “person with a disability” means any person:

  • Who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities.
  • Who has a record of such type of impairment.
  • That is regarded as having such impairment.

The term “major life activities” includes:

  • Caring for self,
  • Walking,
  • Seeing,
  • Hearing,
  • Breathing,
  • Speaking,
  • Working, and
  • Learning.

Students with one of the thirteen qualifying disabilities can be eligible for the 504 Plan protection. These disabilities are:

  • Autism
  • Deaf – Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Mental Retardation
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopaedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Speech/Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment

Students with disabilities that impact learning like the AD/HD (attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder) also qualify under the 504 Plan even though they do not qualify for services under IDEA.