Sunday, February 05, 2006

Section 504 vs. IDEIA

Section 504 refers to the the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Section 504). Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

Section 504 states: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . 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 . . . ."

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Section 504 in programs and activities that receive funds from ED. Recipients of these funds include public school districts, institutions of higher education, and other state and local education agencies. The regulation implementing Section 504 in the context of educational institutions appears at 34 C.F.R. Part 104.

The Section 504 regulation requires a school district to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student's individual needs. For additional information, please contact the Office for Civil Rights.

Section 504 requires recipients of federal monies to provide to students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of such students to the same extent as the needs of students without disabilities are met. An appropriate education for a student with a disability under the Section 504 regulations could consist of education in regular classrooms, education in regular classes with supplementary services, and/or special education and related services.

The section of this act authorizes the OCR to examine procedures by which school districts identify and evaluate students with disabilities and the procedural safeguards which those school districts provide students. OCR is also authorized to examine incidents in which students with disabilities are allegedly subjected to treatment which is different from the treatment to which similarly situated students without disabilities are subjected. Such incidents may involve the unwarranted exclusion of disabled students from educational programs and services.

So what criteria need to be met in order to qualify for as a "disabled child" under section 504?
The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity must be made on the basis of an individual inquiry. The Section 504 regulation, at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i), defines a physical or mental impairment as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems:
  • neurological;
  • musculoskeletal;
  • special sense organs;
  • respiratory, including speech organs;
  • cardiovascular;
  • reproductive;
  • digestive;
  • genito-urinary;
  • hemic and lymphatic; skin;
  • and endocrine;

or any mental or psychological disorder, such as:

  • mental retardation,
  • organic brain syndrome,
  • emotional or mental illness,
  • and specific learning disabilities.

The regulation does not set forth an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list.

Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulation at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as:

  • caring for one's self,
  • performing manual tasks,
  • walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504.



  • A Civil Rights Act - act is laid out as a way to protect civil rights of disabled students and give them "equal access" to a FAPE (Free and Appropriateeducationn)
  • Local funding - districts get NO extra funding to help deliver services
  • Section 504 Coordinator - responsible for coordinating these services
  • Accommodations are given to allow students more access to educational placements
  • All disabilities are eligible - the criteria are rather broad as to who can receive theseaccommodationss
  • Parents should be involved in all team meetings.
  • Notice to parents is required before evaluation or any changes
  • An evaluation is necessary before it can be determined if a child is eligible for Section 504 services.

Special Education (IDEIA)

  • An education act - IDEIA was set forth to ensure that an appropriate education was delivered to students with disabilities.
  • State-federal-local funding - monies for IDEIA come from federal and state agencies
  • Special education Director - responsible for coordinating these services
  • Individualized Education Program - each child who is found to be "disabled" must receive an individualized plan of educational action which specifies the nature, type, and degree of disability, as well as strengths that can be drawn upon; furthermore, short term and long term goals need to be drawn out and measured on a consistent basis.
  • 14 federal disabilities - the federal government sets out 14 sets of criteria that need to be met in order to be eligible for services. States may modify these criteria somewhat.
  • Parents should be involved in all team meetings.
  • Notice to parents is required before evaluation or any changes
  • An evaluation is necessary before it can be determined if a child is eligible for IDEIA services.

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