• Section 504

    What happens if your child does not meet the eligibility requirements to receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)? Your child may be covered for services and supports under the important civil rights law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination because of a disability.

    Schools that receive federal funding must provide modifications and accommodations for eligible students to provide access to the same education that children without disabilities receive. In addition to public schools, Section 504 covers programs that receive federal financial assistance and can include private schools and colleges. Because it is a civil rights law, it protects individuals with disabilities from birth through adulthood.

    • Download a sample letter to request school accommodations under Section 504

    Under the Section 504 regulation, a recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary a education program has a number of responsibilities toward qualified handicapped persons:

    • Undertake annually to identify and locate all unserved handicapped children;
    • Provide a "free appropriate public education" to each student with handicaps, regardless of the nature or severity of the handicap. This means providing regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the individual educational needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met;
    • Ensure that each student with handicaps is educated with non-handicapped students to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the handicapped person;
    • Establish nondiscriminatory evaluation and placement procedures to avoid the inappropriate education that may result from the misclassification or misplacement of students;
    • Establish procedural safeguards to enable parents and guardians to participate meaningfully in decisions regarding the evaluation and placement of their children; and
    • Afford handicapped children an equal opportunity to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities.

    A recipient that operates a preschool education or day care program, or an adult education program may not exclude qualified handicapped persons and must take into account their needs of qualified handicapped persons in determining the aid, benefits, or services to be provided under those programs and activities.

    What is the difference between a Section 504 plan and an IEP?

    The Complex Care Center at Cincinnati Children's provides resources to help families find the special education programs and supports they need.

  • To be eligible for protections under Section 504, a child must:

    • Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
    • Have a record of a disability; or
    • Is regarded as disabled by others. 

    Section 504 covers a wide range of disabilities including emotional or mental illness, ADD / ADHD, orthopedic conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, organic brain syndrome, learning disabilities and mental retardation.

    The nature and severity of the disability will be considered in determining if it substantially limits at least one major life activity and requires accommodations and modifications through the development of a 504 Plan. A major life activity includes learning, walking, seeing, hearing speaking, breathing, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks.

    Determining eligibility for services under Section 504 is a team decision. Team members often include teachers, school administrators, school psychologist, counselor, therapists, the parent and the child, if appropriate. If you have results from psychological or psychiatric evaluations, information about medications or input from your child's physician, you should consider sharing this with the team.

    • Download a sample letter to request school accommodations under Section 504

    A 504 Plan is a legal document that ensures a free appropriate public education. It identifies reasonable accommodations and modifications based on the child's individual needs. Some examples can include preferential seating, additional time for assignments and tests, modified workbooks and textbooks, tape recorders, computers, notes, audiovisual equipment, oral testing, extra set of textbooks for home, additional rest and bathroom breaks, organizational strategies, communication systems, Individual Health Plan, behavior modification plans and breaking assignments down into manageable parts. The 504 Plan is reviewed periodically by the team.

    Not all students who have disabilities require specialized instruction. For students with disabilities or an ongoing health condition that do not require specialized instruction, a Section 504 plan may be an option. Students with a disability or health management needs may also have an individual health plan (IHP).

    For more information:

    *Listing these resources does not imply endorsement. Your child’s needs are unique, talk with your child’s health care provider, school nurse and school team about the need for a 504 or Individual Health Plan. 

    School districts are required to have impartial hearings to resolve conflicts. If problems are not solved, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. You can find national headquarters and state contacts.

    The OCR office for Ohio is located at: The OCR National Headquarters is located at:

    Cleveland Office
    Office for Civil Rights
    U.S. Department of Education
    1350 Euclid Avenue, Suite 325
    Cleveland, OH 44115-1812  

    Telephone: 216-522-4970
    FAX: 216-522-2573; TDD: 800-877-8339
    Email: OCR.Cleveland@ed.gov

    U.S. Department of Education
    Office for Civil Rights
    Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC 20202-1100  

    Telephone: 800-421-3481
    FAX: 202-453-6012; TDD: 800-877-8339
    Email: OCR@ed.gov