Equity and Civil Rights
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Equity and Civil Rights

For Families
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
Frequently Asked Questions

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It applies to any school which receives federal funds. The intent of this law is to provide students with disabilities equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. Students with disabilities may not be denied participation in school programs and activities solely on the basis of disability.

What is a disability?
Students who meet the definition of a person with a disability under Section 504 are those who:

  • have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • have a record of such an impairment; or
  • are regarded as having such an impairment.

What is a physical or mental impairment?
Section 504 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 a complete 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.

What is a major life activity?
The Section 504 definition includes - 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.

Who determines eligibility?
Determining whether a student is a “qualified disabled student” under Section 504 begins with the evaluation process. Each district will have standards and procedures for initial evaluations. Staff often included in the process may include: teachers, school psychologist, counselor, nurse and/or principal - as well as the parent or guardian.

If a student is eligible, how are services provided?
Often a written plan is developed, commonly called a 504 Plan which details accommodations that will be made to ensure that the student has access to programs and activities.

What are accommodations?
Accommodations are program adjustments made to remove disability-related barriers so a student is able to fully participate in school- both academic and nonacademic activities. (i.e. preferential seating, adjust length of test, provide a behavior plan, modified P.E.).

What if my child’s teacher is not providing the accommodations listed on the 504 Plan?
The first step is to contact the teacher and ensure he/she is aware your child has a 504 Plan. If the teacher is not responsive, contact the 504 Coordinator assigned to your child’s school. If your concerns are not resolved, you may wish to contact your School District’s 504 Coordinator.

What is a 504 Coordinator?
Each school district is required to designate an employee who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with Section 504 regulations. The district will also have complaint policies and procedures to receive and respond to complaints and inquiries.

Can a student be dismissed from Section 504?
Yes - once a student no longer meets the eligibility requirements.

Who can I contact, other than my school district and OSPI to answer my questions about Section 504?
The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Section 504. OCR can also provide information and assistance. For more information contact:

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
Seattle Office
OCR, U.S. Department of Education
915 Second Avenue Room 3310
Seattle, WA 98174-1099
(206) 607-1600 TDD: 877-521-2172
Email: OCR.Seattle@ed.gov
Web site

Additional Information

Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  (360) 725-6000  TTY (360) 664-3631
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