• What is §504?

    • The Law(s)
      • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 represents the federal law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency. Section 504 became the first U.S. Federal Civil Rights Protection Law for individuals with disabilities. Although considered a landmark law within the U.S. legal system that carries a requirement for implementation, the federal government provides no funding for the mandate.
      • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990 directly connects to §504 as it borrows the same definition of disability from the preceding law. The ADA applies the standard to most private sector businesses, seeking to eliminate barriers to building access, transportation, and communication. To a large degree, the ADA supplants the employment provisions of §504 within the community as it reinforces the accessibility requirements with specific community-based regulation.

     

    • Eligibility
      • Section 504 applies to any student designated as "qualified” for protections. The law currently defines disability as an individual who (a) has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (b) has a record of such an impairment, or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment. Creating an exhaustive list of major life activities becomes difficult, however includes the concepts of caring for oneself, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, learning, or access the environment due to physical, medical, or other bodily functions. [34 C.F.R. §104.3 (k) (2)].

     

    • Accommodations
      • The key concept behind nondiscrimination due to disability is the term “reasonable accommodation”. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to the work/school environment that enable the individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job or access educational opportunities in a way that is equitable to nondisabled peers. Reasonable encompasses the concept of equitable access without unfair advantage and without undue hardship on the district. Accommodations may not fundamentally alter the curriculum or programs in which the student participates.

                   Further clarification of the concept of reasonable accommodation indicates adjustments made in a system to accommodate or make fair the same system for an individual based on a proven need. That need can vary. Accommodations for disabilities may address academic, behavioral, emotional, environmental, medical, mental, or physical conditions that impede the individuals access when compared to nondisabled peers.

    • Free and Appropriate Public Education
      • When applied to students in public education, the language broadly prohibits the denial of public education participation, or enjoyment of the benefits offered by public school programs because of a child’s disability. Section 504 requires school districts to provide Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to students with disabilities using reasonable accommodations.
      • Section 504 extends protections from discrimination based on disability to extracurricular, co-curricular, clubs, sports, or other after school programming that is sponsored by the

                         NEISD. An essential factor remains, that reasonable accommodations may not fundamentally alter the eligibility requirements or program rubrics.

    • Child Find
      • Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) also applies to PK-12 schools, the existence of IDEIA does not mean the Rehabilitation Act is unnecessary or redundant. IDEIA only protects a subset of children and youth who have disabilities—those who satisfy the IDEIA specific definition for a child with a disability. The IDEIA is strictly an educational law that addresses specially designed curriculum and instruction alongside the other supports needed by an individual with a disability. Section 504 addresses the scope of equity under Civil Rights Legislation applicable in agencies beyond the public school setting.
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      • The concept of CHILD FIND addresses the public school district’s federally mandated obligation to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities residing within their jurisdictions who need special education and related services. (34 CFR §300.111
      • Under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Child Find is addressed in two platforms. First, a committee develops an Individualized Accommodation Plan (IAP), addressing accommodations and supports for equitable access to the educational environment and opportunities. Secondly, if the committee or parent suspect a disability beyond that identified under §504, the Child Find obligation initiates a referral for an evaluation under IDEIA to determine if the student’s condition requires an Individualized Education Program (IEP) offered through IDEIA/Special Education.