Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 is a non-discrimination civil rights law that prohibits agencies that receive Federal funding from discriminating against persons with disabilities on the basis of disability. Section 504 includes students with disabilities who qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but also includes protections for other disabilities such as dyslexia, diabetes, food allergies, and others which do not fall under the IDEA regulations.
What the Section 504 law says:Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was designed to eliminate discrimination against any student with a disability in any program offered by the school district. 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 other program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
What is the definition of a disabled student under Section 504?A disabled student is one who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including learning;
- Has a record of such impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such impairment.
What is meant by "otherwise qualified"?
For an individual to be covered under Section 504, the student must be otherwise qualified, meaning that a student with a disability must be qualified to do something before the presence of a disability can be a factor in discrimination. Therefore, if a student wants to participate in some activity, but the individual is not otherwise qualified for that activity, not allowing the person to participate would not be considered discrimination. For example, a 12-year-old middle school boy with ADHD or asthma tries out for the basketball team but is unable to pass, shoot or dribble. The coach will probably not allow the boy to be on the team. This would not be considered discrimination under Section 504 because the boy was not otherwise qualified to be on the team.
What is a "major life activity"?
Major life activities are: Caring for oneself, doing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, breathing, standing, lifting, bending, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working or the operation of a major bodily function. An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.