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What is Section 504?

Section 504 is a federal civil rights law designed to eliminate disability discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funds. All LEAs receive federal funds, therefore denying a disabled student a FAPE constitutes disability discrimination.

What is a "program or activity"?

The term includes all levels of TDOE and all LEAs or schools receiving federal funds regardless of whether the specific program or activity involved is a direct recipient of federal funds. If an LEA contracts with alternative education programs, it must insure that a student with disabilities has an equal opportunity to participate in alternative education, even though the programs themselves do not directly receive any federal funds.

Who is a "qualified" individual with a disability?

For elementary and secondary education programs, regulations define a qualified individual with a disability as one who is: (a) of an age during which non-disabled individuals are provided with educational services; (b) of any age during which it is mandatory under state law to provide such services to disabled individuals; or (c) entitled to FAPE under IDEA.
For 504 concerns contact your school counselor or Julie Thomas, Special Populations Supervisor
Who is eligible under Section 504?
Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend LEAs receiving federal funds. To be protected, a student must be determined to: (a) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (b) have a record of such impairment; or (c) be regarded as having such impairment. LEAs must provide FAPE to qualified students in their jurisdictions who may have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The meaning of “disabled student” was substantially broadened by the American’s with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, which became effective on January 1, 2009. Congress amended the ADA in 2008 to create “clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards” to broaden who qualifies as a “disabled person” under Section 504 and the ADA. Therefore, the term “physical or mental impairment” is not limited to any specific diseases or categories of medical conditions. Additionally, the impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict a student in performing a major life activity to be considered “substantially limiting.” Practically any activity that is of importance to a school-aged student’s daily life now qualifies as a “major life activity,” and an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities to be considered a disability. Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations, include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504. In the Amendments Act, Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including TDOE Section 504 Guide 9 | Page eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of “major bodily functions” that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The Section 504 regulatory provision, though not as comprehensive as the Amendments Act, is still valid – the regulatory provision’s list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the regulatory provision can nonetheless be a major life activity.

When determining eligibility, a student should be compared to non-disabled age/grade-level peers.
Mitigating Measures
Mitigating measures used by a disabled student to manage an impairment or lessen the impact of an impairment (e.g. medication, medical devices, related aids and services, etc.) should be disregarded when determining whether a student’s impairment constitutes a disability. There is one exception to the mitigating measures analysis. The ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining if the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. “Ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” are lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or eliminate refractive error, whereas “low-vision devices” are devices that magnify, enhance, or otherwise augment a visual image.
Temporary Impairments
A temporary impairment is a disability under Section 504 and the ADA if it is severe enough that it substantially limits a major life activity for a student. The issue of whether a temporary impairment is substantial enough to be a disability must be resolved on a caseby-case basis, taking into consideration both, the duration (or expected duration) of the impairment and the extent to which it actually limits a major life activity of the affected individual. Episodic Impairments An impairment that is episodic or in remission (e.g. epilepsy, cancer, bipolar disorder, etc.) is a disability under Section 504 and the ADA, if it substantially limits a major life activity for a student when active. Such a student is entitled to a FAPE. Transitory Impairments Impairment with an actual or expected duration of six (6) months or less. In the ADAAA, Congress clarified that an individual is not “regarded as” an individual with a disability if the impairment is transitory or minor.