Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a federal civil rights law passed in 1973 that protects the rights of persons with qualifying disabilities. This Act provides that “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…” 29 U.S.C. Section 794(a) (1988). 

This law directs that recipients of federal funds (public schools) are to make programs and activities accessible to all persons with disabilities, including physical accessibility to school district facilities. In other words, Section 504 states that no person with a disability can be excluded from or denied benefits of any program receiving federal financial assistance. Section 504 has three areas of emphasis: employment, facility accessibility, and requirements for preschool, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education programs/activities. 

Eligibility under Section 504

Eligibility is determined when the student’s physical or mental impairment meets the federal criteria of “substantially limits a major life activity.” The presence of the disability is not sufficient, in and of itself, to qualify a student as eligible; nor is a medical diagnosis. When a child is determined eligible, Section 504 ensures that accommodations and services are provided to remove barriers and allow equitable access.  

The Section 504 child find and eligibility processes are to identify students who have a disability that impacts their functioning in the school setting to the point of needing an individualized and systematic plan of accommodation and/or services. The law provides no guarantee of achievement or of performance, but rather the law ensures provision of accommodations and services that will enable the student to have an equal opportunity, and which will be developed in accordance with certain procedural steps and safeguards outlined by the district.

Parents may, and should be encouraged to, inform the school district when their child has a disability. In many cases, a student’s disability will be disclosed in the student’s health history and student records. Schools are responsible for having an evaluation process for identifying students with disabilities (Child Find).

If you believe your child has a disability and is in need of an evaluation to determine whether they qualify for an accommodation plan, please contact your child’s building principal or district Section 504 Coordinator.

Primary Contacts

Stephanie Ver Helst

Special Education Director, Section 504 District Coordinator, English Learner Programming Director Foster Care, Homeless and Migratory Education School Liaison