The Importance of a Section 504 Plan
If your child needs extra help or accommodations at school, you might be able get help through a Section 504 plan. A Section 504 plan helps your child get accommodations (changes in how content is taught, supported, or tested) that will help them participate in the classroom or other school activities. Children might receive 504 services for many reasons. A few examples of 504 accommodations include: getting extra time on a test; sitting at the front of the class to reduce distractions; having a handrail or ramp installed in the school; having a test read to them; and classroom changes to manage food allergies.
Section 504 uses a very broad definition of the word “disability.” So students who are approved to get more extensive special education services covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can also get 504 services. Other students who do not need – or are not approved to get – special education services may also be able to get 504 services.
Who Can Get 504 Services?
Section 504 doesn’t cover or list specific diagnoses. Instead, it defines a disability as something that “greatly limits one or more major life activities.” Examples of major life activities include learning, reading, writing, concentrating, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, interacting with others, and working.
Children usually get services under Section 504 when:
They have an ongoing medical condition, like asthma or diabetes, which isn’t covered by IDEA but requires classroom accommodations.
They have a learning difference or disability that could be covered under IDEA, such as ADHD or mild dyslexia, but they don’t need special education services.
Your adult child can continue to receive Section 504 accommodations if they are attending a college or university that gets federal funds. You or your child can check with the Section 504 representative to learn more.
How Does My Child Get Section 504 Services?
If your child’s teachers see a reason for a 504 evaluation, the school doesn’t need your permission. They just need to let you know that they are doing the evaluation and its results.
You can also ask for a Section 504 evaluation for your child. To get one, write to your school district’s 504 contact person. You can call your child’s school to find out who this person is.
In some school districts, you can also ask the school counselor for this evaluation. Here is a sample 504 request letter from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund website.
If your child is approved for 504 services, your child’s school will work with you to create a 504 plan for your child. This plan is similar to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and is specific to your child’s needs.
What Services Are Available Under Section 504?
Accommodations and modifications under Section 504 include many different things, and we’ve listed some examples below.
Examples of accommodations are:
Physical changes to the school that are necessary for your child to be able to use the school building, such as installing a wheelchair ramp, handrails, or motorized doors. The school could also adjust your child’s schedule so all their classes are on a single floor.
Changes in rules, policies, or procedures to let your child have the same chances to participate in school activities as their peers without disabilities. An example is letting a child with diabetes have a snack in the classroom or letting a child with ADHD stand up when needed during class.
Learning aids, like time with a literacy specialist, using a calculator on a math test, or typing an essay instead of writing it out by hand.
Examples of modifications are: Shortening your child’s day to help them manage their anxiety.
Changing gym class requirements for a child with asthma or another physical disability.
Examples of testing (both classroom and standardized tests) accommodations are:
Different test formats, such as test printed in Braille or a large print test booklet and answer sheet.
Having someone read test questions aloud to a student who has trouble reading.
Letting students who cannot write say their answers aloud to a person who writes them down.
Increasing the amount of time a student is given to complete the test or assignment – or giving them extra breaks.