By: Carmen Willings
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is also called the "Civil Rights Law for the Disabled." The law states the "No otherwise qualified individual with handicaps in the United States...shall, solely by reason of his or her handicap, 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..."
In simple terms, Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. The school district does not need to have a separate evaluation process for Section 504 than what is conducted for I.D.E.A, but they must follow the requirements for evaluation specified in the Section 504 regulations. There is no eligibility criteria for funding, nor is there an assignment of a classification in Section 504. The team must answer the following questions:
Who is considered to have disability?
As defined by federal law, "An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment."
According to Section 504, an impairment is any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that "substantially" reduces or lessens a student's ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning, behavior or health related condition.
What are "substantial limitations?
This term is not defined in the act or the regulations and is left to each agency to define. The Americans with Disabilities Act does suggest that the term "ubstantially limits" should be interpreted to mean that the student is "unable to perform a major life activity that the average student of approximately the same age can perform, or that the student is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which a particular major life activity is performed as compared to the average student of approximately the same age."
Each student's needs are determined individually. Appropriate accommodations should be determined based on the nature of the disabling condition and what the student needs in order to have an equal opportunity to compete when compared to a student without disabilities. The goal is to provide students the knowledge and compensating skills they will need to be able to function in life after graduation.
Possible accommodations the student may need include, but are not limited to:
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