Understanding a 504 Plan
Special Education is specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a student. For individuals with disabilities, a modified curriculum and appropriate learning goals are created using an Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, not all students with disabilities are eligible for an IEP, either because they do not have a qualifying disability or they do not have a need for special education. Instead, these students receive a 504 Plan.
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based on a disability. Section 504 applies specifically to education and states that no student can be excluded because of disability, regardless of the severity. It requires all public schools to provide an appropriate education to every qualifying student with a disability. This includes access to all educational opportunities, not just those in school. For example, for a student in a wheelchair the physical school building must be accessible as well as the school bus and other school-sponsored events such as field trips.
Who qualifies for a 504 Plan?
Individuals with physical or cognitive impairments,
Individuals with disabilities that substantially limit one or more major life functions (i.e. going to school, holding a job, communicating, or living independently), and
Individuals that have a record of or are regarded as having a disability.
The goal of a 504 Plan is to provide a student with disabilities the same opportunities as all other students. This is done through the provision of “related services,” which is defined as whatever is needed for the student to benefit from the service. There is no exhaustive list for all related services; it is anything that will make a student’s education more accessible to them. Without these services, a child is being denied an education.