504 Accommodations in Schools
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed October 10, 2023
The world of special education can seem complex. Nevertheless, it is essential to understand its concepts and terms. Sometimes, students with disabilities do not qualify under the classification of disabled under state or federal laws. Yet, they may still need accommodations to succeed in school.
If you are a parent or guardian, you will want to be familiar with 504 accommodations. This is a term from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This federal civil rights law ensures that students with disabilities have equal access to education. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces it.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. In the school setting, these accommodations refer to simple, inexpensive changes a school must make. These changes allow students with disabilities the chance to succeed in a classroom setting.
Section 504 does not require schools to provide individualized educational programs (IEPs). This is unlike those required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Yet, Section 504 is still a federal law that schools must follow.
This article provides a brief overview of Section 504 accommodations.
What Is a Disability?
A disability, under Section 504, is a condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Disabilities can vary widely. Disabilities can include mental impairments. This can include ADHD, autism, and dyslexia. It can also include epilepsy, food allergies, dwarfism, bipolar disease, and many more. They can also include physical impairments.
Schools use assessments that evaluate the child's needs. This determines the child's eligibility for 504 accommodations. If a child needs special education services, the school district or education agency must provide them. This is part of the child's rights under federal civil rights laws.
What Are Reasonable Accommodations?
Section 504 requires schools to make reasonable accommodations for students. These accommodations help people with disabilities learn better. Reasonable accommodations are modifications that allow students with disabilities to access school programs. They also allow students to receive educational benefits. Schools can not ban students from participating without giving them reasonable accommodations.
Examples of reasonable 504 accommodations may include:
- Specialized instruction from a special education teacher
- Related services like speech therapy
- Procedural safeguards like frequent progress reports
- Allowing a student in a wheelchair to leave the classroom a few minutes early to account for longer passing time
- Providing a student who is visually impaired with books with larger print
- Allowing a person with ADHD or other learning disabilities extra time for test taking
- Providing a student with low-distraction work areas
- Preparing a student for upcoming changes in routine
- Allowing a student with hyperactivity to keep a small object in their desk to manipulate quietly
- Quietly and discreetly providing a student's accommodation without drawing attention
These accommodations ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This is an important term to know. FAPE means that every student, regardless of disability, has the right to the same educational opportunities. This includes participating in nonacademic activities in the least restrictive environment possible.
FAQ About 504 Accommodations
- What is FAPE? FAPE stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. It ensures that all students, including those with disabilities, have equal education opportunities.
- What does the OCR do? The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces federal laws. These laws prohibit discrimination in programs receiving federal financial assistance.
- What if my child is heading to high school or a postsecondary institution? Section 504 protects students at all levels of education. Accommodations can be adjusted to meet changing student needs. Accommodations ensure that students have equal access to education throughout their academic journey.
- What does CFR stand for? CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations. Section 504 is part of the CFR, specifically in Title 34, Part 104. This section outlines the rights of students with disabilities.
- Can 504 accommodations be used in general education classrooms? Yes. Accommodations can include modifications like extra time on tests or preferential seating.
How To Request Reasonable 504 Accommodations
Here are the steps to request 504 accommodations:
- Write a formal letter to your child's school. Include information about your child's disability and how it impacts their learning ability. It would help if you suggested specific accommodations that would work for them.
- Submit the letter to school administrators. They will initiate a referral process for special education services. The 504 coordinator should schedule a meeting with you within 30 days. Your child's teacher is also usually included in this meeting. This meeting will be to plan to provide the requested accommodation.
- Participate in the assessment process. The school will evaluate your child's needs and abilities.
- Meet with school personnel to develop a 504 plan if your child qualifies. This plan outlines what accommodations your child will receive throughout the school year.
What To Do if You Are Denied Reasonable 504 Accommodations
Most states allow parents to bring a claim if they believe their child has been discriminated against because of a disability. This can happen when schools deny requests for reasonable accommodations.
If you feel that your child has been unfairly denied accommodations, here are steps you can take:
- Request a due process hearing. This is an impartial hearing where you can present your case.
- File a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This is a federal agency that enforces civil rights laws in education.
- Consider legal help. An attorney can guide you through the process. They can ensure your child's rights are protected.
Getting Legal Help for a Denial of 504 Accommodations
Consulting a lawyer may be helpful if you need to challenge a 504 accommodation decision. They can explain the process, represent your interests, and work toward the best outcome for your child.
Talk to an education attorney in your area.
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