Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504 establishes a student’s right to full access and participation to education and all school-related activities and require schools to provide appropriate services to meet the individual needs of qualified students.
A student is considered “qualified” under Section 504 if the student is between the ages of 3 and 22 years of age and has a disability, which is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, and learning. Some examples of impairments that may substantially limit major life activities, even with the help of medication, aids or devices are: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, allergies, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and mental illness.
The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.35(b) requires school districts to individually evaluate a student before classifying the student as having a disability. A physician's medical diagnosis may be considered among other sources in evaluating a student with an impairment or believed to have an impairment which substantially limits a major life activity. Section 504 regulations require school districts to draw upon a variety of sources in interpreting evaluation data and making decisions. In addition, periodic re-evaluation is required. Section 504 specifies that re-evaluations in accordance with the IDEA is one means of compliance with Section 504, which require re-evaluation at three-year intervals.