Civil Rights Law
Section 504 began as part of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973. It is a mandatory civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public and private sectors that accept federal funding. This area of law is also upheld by the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Section 504 Eligibility
In order to qualify for Section 504 protections in public or charter schools, a student must undergo evaluation to determine if a physical or mental impairment exists that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The evaluation process must always begin with informed written consent from the parent and be provided at no expense. Evaluation typically refers to a collection and analysis of data from a variety of sources. The Section 504 committee is responsible for conducting the evaluation and determining program eligibility. Eligibility determines qualification for anti-discriminatory protection and rights.
Who is an individual with a disability?
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”
[34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].
What is the definition of impairment under Section 504?
An impairment may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that substantially reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting. This may include individuals with ADHD, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, severe allergies, chronic asthma, Tourette ’s syndrome, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, HIV/AIDS, behavior disorders and temporary disabilities (e.g., broken writing arm, broken leg, etc.). Conditions that are episodic or in remission are also now covered if they create a substantial limitation in one or more major life activity while they are active.
What are major life activities?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to, self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, speaking, sitting, thinking, learning, breathing, concentrating, interacting with others and working. This list also includes the life activities of reading, concentrating, standing, lifting, bending, etc.