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.