Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

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To develop your student's 504 plan:

Common Questions and Answers


1. What is 504?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973/Public law 93-112 is a comprehensive law that addresses the rights of handicapped persons (hereafter referred to as persons with disabilities except when quoting the law) and applies to all agencies receiving federal financial assistance. Eliminating barriers to education programs and services, increasing building accessibility, and establishing equitable employment practices are thoroughly and specifically addressed in Section 504 regulations. Section 504 states: “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”. The regulation makes it clear that the failure to provide a free appropriate public education to a student with disabilities covered by Section 504 is discrimination which violates the Act.


2. Who is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of compliance with Section 504?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of compliance with Section 504. Federal financial assistance to a local school district is contingent on compliance with Section 504 and other civil rights laws. OCR may determine that federal funds should be withheld from local school systems that are not in compliance with civil rights legislation.

For the Cobb County School District the Assistant Superintendent Special Student Services is the Student Program Accessibility/Section 504 and ADA Coordinator. The Director of Construction is the Facilities Accessibility/Section 504 and ADA Coordinator. The Chief Human Resources Officer is the Personnel Issues/Section 504 and ADA Coordinator.


3. Who is eligible for 504?

In 1973, when the Rehabilitation Act was passed, “handicap” was the acceptable term for a mental or physical impairment. Today, the term “disability” is preferred and promoted. Under the provisions of Section 504, either term refers to a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. To qualify for protection under the law, the individual must have a physical of mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, or working. Examples include Tourettes Syndrome, epilepsy, sickle-cell anemia, asthma, or a serious long-term illness or injury, if there is a resulting impact on a major life activity such as learning.


4. How are students with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder handled?

When a school is informed that a student has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the school is required to utilize appropriate educational strategies.These strategies can be documented through the use of the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. RTI is a model in which a student with academic or behavioral difficulties is provided one or more research based interventions. The student's progress is monitored frequently to evaluate whether or not interventions are sufficient to assist the student in making progress. If, after a determined period of time, the student does not progress in spite of the interventions, referral to a 504 team to determine eligibility will be made.

For example, if behavior is the manifestation of the condition, then the successful development of a behavior management plan meets the school’s obligations under the federal law. If the student is manifesting attention problems, which are affecting learning, the school can develop strategies to address those within the regular classroom. In cases in which the ADD results in behavior or attention problems which are so severe that they cannot be accommodated within the regular classroom, Section 504 requires the school to provide special services which will enable the student to benefit from an educational program. Students with ADD or ADHD might qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as a student suffering from an “other health impairment” (OHI). The school should determine if a referral to special education for consideration of OHI eligibility is appropriate.


5. Who determines if a student is eligible for 504?

Referrals begin at the local school level and are made to the 504 Contact Person. After the RTI process has been followed and a determination is made that the student is unable to progress, then the 504 team is convened to determine whether the student is eligible of a 504 accommodation plan.


6. How does the Student Support Team determine if a student is 504 eligible?

To qualify for protection under Section 504, the individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning or working. Three questions to consider in determining whether a person’s impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities: (1) What is the nature and severity of the impairment? (2) How long will it last or is expected to last? (3) What is its permanent or long-term impact or expected impact? Temporary, non-chronic impairments that do not last for a long time and which have little or no long-term impact usually are not considered to be “disabilities."


7. What is a Section 504 Plan?

A Section 504 Plan is an educational plan describing what accommodations, special services, or related aids and services will be provided to meet the individual educational needs of the eligible student as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. Although a written plan is not required by federal regulations, it is advised. It makes good sense that the plan be in writing. Parents should be notified and a copy of parental rights provided to them. A format for a plan is on a printable page at the end of this information.


8. What are a parent’s rights under Section 504?

They are not the same nor as extensive as those provided under IDEA. They are listed on a printable page here and must be made available to parents of children who have a 504 plan. Section 504 Rights


9. What are some examples of special services in the classroom and facility?

Below are samples in the areas of communication, organization/management, alternative teaching strategies, and student precautions.


10. What are the guidelines for special test accommodations under Section 504?

A Section 504 Plan must be on file for each student for whom modifications in standardized testing will be made. The plan should outline instructional modifications appropriate for the student during regular classroom instruction. Testing modifications consistent with these instructional modifications should also be outlined in the plan. It is not appropriate to make testing modifications unless the appropriate documentation is on file.

Special Services in the Classroom and Facility

As individual students are identified, the classroom teacher may need specific training in the area of the identified disability (for example, training from a school nurse on danger signs of an impending asthma attack, or training from a physical therapist on correct positioning of a student who uses a wheelchair). The following classroom/facility special or related aids and services are examples of ways in which students with disabilities may be successfully assisted within the regular education environment.

I. Communication
A. There may be a need to modify parent/student/teacher communications. For example:
  • develop a daily/weekly journal
  • develop parent/student/school contacts
  • schedule periodic parent/teacher meetings
  • provide parents with duplicate sets of texts
B. There may be a need to modify staff communications. For example:
  • identify resource staff
  • network with other staff
  • schedule building team meetings
  • maintain on-going communication with building principal
C. There may be a need to modify school/community agency communication. For example, with parent consent:
  • identify and communicate with appropriate agency personnel working with student
  • assist in agency referrals
  • provide appropriate carryover in the school environment
II. Organization/Management
A. There may be a need to modify the instructional day. For example:
  • allow student more time to pass in hallways
  • modify class schedule
B. There may be a need to modify the classroom organization/structure. For example:
  • adjust placement of student within classroom (such as use of a study carrel, arrange proximity to teacher)
  • increase/decrease opportunity for movement
  • determine appropriate classroom assignment (such as open versus structured)
  • reduce external stimuli
C. There may be a need to modify the district’s policies/procedures. For example:
  • allow increase in number of excused absences for health reasons
  • adjust transportation/parking arrangements
  • approve early dismissal for service agency appointments
III. Alternative Teaching Strategies
There may be need to modify teaching methods. For example:
  • adjust testing procedures (such as length of time, oral administration, tape recorded answers)
  • utilize materials that address the student’s learning style or modality impairment (such as visual, tactile, auditory)
  • adjust reading level of materials
IV. Student Precautions
A. There may be a need to modify the classroom/building climate for health purposes. For example:
  • use an air purifier in classroom
  • control the temperature
  • accommodate specific allergic reactions
B. There may be a need to modify classroom/building use to accommodate equipment needs. For example:
  • plan for evacuation of students who use wheelchairs
  • schedule classes in accessible areas
C. There may be a need to modify building health/safety procedures. For example:
  • administer medication
  • apply universal precautions
  • accommodate special diets

Special and Related Aids and Services Special and related aids and services must be appropriate to the needs of a specific student and must be designed to meet the individual needs to the same extent that the needs of students without disabilities are met. They may include:

  • Interpreters for students with deafness
  • Books on tape for students with significant vision problems
  • Accessible restrooms
  • Assignment sheets
  • Tests and quizzes given orally
  • Extra time for tests and exams or division of exams into parts
  • Note taking assistance
  • Peer tutoring
  • Extra study time for vocabulary
  • Acceptance of typed or dictated work
  • Repetition of directions by student
  • Preferential seating
  • Use of study carrel
  • Oral reading on a voluntary basis
  • Use of a calculator
  • Provision of defined limits
  • Use of positive reinforcement
  • Allowance for frequent breaks
  • Modification of physical education program for a student with asthma
  • Shorten school day
  • Allowance for service dogs
  • Allowance for students with diabetes to eat snacks
  • Evacuation plan for a student with a mobility impairment
  • Specialized transportation
  • Accessible parking
  • Ventilation
  • Acoustically appropriate environment
  • Modification of attendance incentive policy
  • Administration of medication according to district policy
  • Use of word processor or computer for written work
  • Special diet
  • Homebound instruction during illness