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What is Section 504?

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides a general non-discrimination section prohibiting entities that receive federal funding from discriminating against persons on the basis of a disability. This section was numbered 504 in the original legislation, and although it is now codified in 29 U.S.C. §794(a) of the Act, it is still referred to as Section 504, which reads in part:

"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service." 29 U.S.C.§794(a).

This statute includes a local educational agency (LEA) in the definition of program or activity. Children not meeting the specific eligibility requirements for special education placement under IDEA, but who are otherwise found to be a handicapped person may qualify for an "accommodation" program under 504. Individual with handicap(s) is defined for this section as one who: (i) Has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities; (ii) Has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) Is regarded as having such an impairment. 29 CFR § 1614.203(a). While the procedures involved with any 504 program are not as detailed and formalized as IDEA, they are outlined by each agency and enforceable through administrative hearings. Everyone uses the term Section 504 for this program.

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