Section 504: What to know…
In order to be eligible for a 504 Plan, a student must have two things:
1. A documented mental or physical impairment. (Usually criteria outlined in the DSM-IV-TR or Merck Manual)
2. The documented mental or physical impairment must limit one or more major life activity.
The list of major life activities includes functions such as: caring for self, seeing, breathing, reading, sleeping, communication, cell growth performing manual tasks, hearing, learning, concentrating, lifting, bending, walking, speaking, working, thinking,digestive, bowel, badder function, or immune system.
To obtain a 504 Plan, schools must consider the disability and if it affects a major life activity (prior to any accommodations). Previously, a student with ADHD who was being successful in school with medications may not have been eligible for a 504 Plan. Now, that same student would likely be eligible for a 504 Plan because the school must consider whether a major life activity is limited prior to medications. Additionally, the list of major life activities affected by the disability has increased. Reading, thinking, and concentration were not part of this list previously.
There are stricter rules for eligibility for obtaining an IEP, because schools get funding based on the number of students in special education. Schools are monitored and required to follow very specific guidelines. There is no funding tied to 504 Plans and they have looser criteria. 504 Plans are a protective law, managed by the Office of Civil Rights. To be eligible for an IEP, a person must meet criteria for a disability and require services beyond reasonable accommodations and interventions. 504 Plans consider the effects of the disability prior to any accommodations or interventions.
Which is better, a 504 Plan or IEP?