To become eligible for services and protection against discrimination on the basis of a disability under Section 504, a student must be determined, as a result of an evaluation, to have a “physical or mental impairment” that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 29 U.S.C. § 706(8)(B).
Major Life Activity: (A) Included, but not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. (29 U.S.C. 705, 42 U.S.C. 12102)
Major Life Activities: (A) Included (B) Major Bodily Functions include, but are not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. (29 U.S.C. 705, 42 U.S.C. 12102)
In the school setting, eliminating discrimination on the basis of disability is accomplished by providing equal access to educational opportunities by providing reasonable modifications and services through a 504 accommodation plan.
Country Gardens has an administrator designated as the 504 coordinator
What is Section 504?
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as “Section 504,” is a federal statute that prohibits discrimination against persons on the basis of their disability by institutions, such as Country Gardens Charter School, that receives financial federal assistance.
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall solely, by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Section 504’s purpose is, among other things, to assure that disabled students have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to non-disabled students. An eligible student under Section 504 is a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. If a student is covered by Section 504, Country Gardens Charter School must provide such accommodations as are necessary to ensure that the student has equal access to services, programs and activities offered by our schools.
How does Section 504 differ from the ADA?
Section 504 protects students from discrimination on the basis of disability to the same extent as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This manual uses only the term “Section 504,” but the District acknowledges that qualified students with disabilities have the same rights under the ADA as under Section 504.
What is the ADA Amendments ACT of 2008?
The ADA Amendments ACT of 2008, effective January 1, 2009 amended the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The ADA Amendments ACT broadened who qualifies for protections under the ADA and Section 504.
a. Expanded definition of “major life activity”
The definition of “major life activity” was expanded by the 2008 ADA Amendments (the new language appears in bold): “major life activities” include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.
A “major life activity” also includes the “operation of a major bodily function,” including but not limited to functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive bowel bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
Common impairment that may entitle a student to a Section 504 plan include communicable diseases (e.g., HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis), medical conditions (e.g., asthma, allergies, diabetes), and attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD).
b. “Substantially Limits”
The definition of “substantially limits” was relaxed with passage of the 2008 ADA Amendments in two significant ways:
1. The amendments provide that “a(n) impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit major life activity when active.” For example, a student with Crohn’s Disease who may have periodic flare-ups that require hospitalization must be evaluated based on how the disease affects him or her during those flare-ups, and not when the disease is inactive.
2. The 2008 ADA Amendments also clarified that a student may be eligible under Section 504 even if the student’s disability or condition is controlled or mitigated, e.g. but medication, cochlear implants, hearing aids, etc.
Identifying Students for Section 504 Eligibility
What criteria are used to determine 504 eligibility?
For a student to qualify for Section 504 protection, the student must meet three criteria: (1) a mental or physical impairment, (2) which substantially limits,(3) one or more major life activities. If the student has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, the impairment is a qualifying disability if it creates a barrier to the student’s ability to access the same educational opportunities afforded to non-disabled students. It is important to understand that all three criteria must be met before the student is eligible for Section 504 protection. Additional details on each of the three criteria follows.
Mental or physical impairment:
This criterion includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems. Mental or psychological disorders are also covered. Section 504, in contrast to IDEA, does not limit eligibility to specific diseases or categories of medical conditions. Environmental, cultural and economic disadvantages are not covered unless the student who has any of these characteristics also has a physical or mental impairment.
Section 504 does not specifically define the term “substantially limits.” The basis for evaluating this criterion is the impact the impairment has on one or more of a student’s major life activities. It is vital to understand that for a student to qualify for 504, the impairment must impose, to a “considerable” or “large degree,” a limitation to one or more major life activities.
The 504 Team will consider the nature and severity of the disability as well as how long the disability is expected to last. Simply having a condition or disability does not automatically qualify a student for Section 504 protection. The condition must present a barrier to the student’s ability to access the same educational opportunities as that afforded a non-disabled student, or a substantial limitation does not exist.
1. Physical or Mental Impairment
Any physical or mental impairment may result in qualification under Section 504. Unlike IDEA, there are no categories of qualifying disabilities. The definition of “major life activity” was expanded by the 2008 ADA Amendments (the new language appears in bold): “major life activities” include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.
2. Major Life Activity
The identified physical or mental impairment must affect a major life activity: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.
3. Substantially Limited
The impairment must substantially limit the major life activity, and thereby create a barrier to the student’s ability to access the same educational opportunities afforded to non-disabled students.
Section 504 eligibility meetings are not intended to be as comprehensive as a special education evaluation. However, the 504 Team must investigate the specific concern that triggered the review request. Information that might be considered includes, but is not limited to, grades, attendance reports, behavior plans, review requests, cumulative file information, psychological evaluations, medical information, observations and standardized testing information. The 504 Team may administer and use other formal and informal measures as necessary. The team must obtain parent permission if it is determined that individualized standardized testing is necessary. The team must ensure that information obtained from all sources is documented and carefully considered.
Eligibility for 504 Services:
Whether or not the pupil is eligible for Section 504 services will be determined by a consensus of participating public school personnel after consideration of all relevant data, including consideration of any information the parent and pupil wish to provide. If the pupil is found to be eligible for Section 504 accommodation, written documentation will be placed in the pupil’s file. The pupil’s eligibility and the specific plan of service will be reviewed annually.
A general education classroom with accommodations and /or the use of supplementary materials/equipment, is the appropriate setting for pupils who are determined disabled under Section 504. Should the Section 504 team determine a pupil requires more intense services, written documentation should include:
Evidence that a Section 504 services plan has been implemented over a reasonable period of time and has not resulted in pupil progress.
Evaluations which are expanded and may include standardized assessments from specifically trained personnel such as speech therapist, psychologist and resource specialist.