Monday, February 25, 2013

How To Qualify For A 504 Plan In School: The First Two Questions To Ask

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (aka "Section 504") is an extremely important law for disabled students.  Having a 504 Plan means a student can receive many accommodations, and even services, to assist them in accessing their school and the curriculum.  But, how do you know if your child may qualify?

The first step to qualify for a 504 Plan involves evaluating whether a student has a "physical or mental impairment."  This alone will not qualify a student, but it is the first question to ask.

Per 42 USC (United States Code) §12102 (1)(A), qualifying physical or mental impairments are described as:

(A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genito‑urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or (B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

However, if a student has a qualifying physical or mental impairment, that does not automatically mean the student qualifies for a 504.  The disability also has to substantially limit a major life activity, a concept defined in 42 USC §12102 (2) as: 

(A)... major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

(B) ... a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Although this blog cannot address these matters in depth, the first two questions usually are:

1)  Does the student have a physical or mental impairment?
2)  Does this substantially limit a major life activity?

If so, parents can request a 504 evaluation and that a 504 Plan be implemented.

A parent's battle often is in getting the school to see that a student qualifies for a 504 and then to get it written appropriately.  It is well worth the battle as 504 Plans can be key in closing gaps for a disabled student to access their education.

If your son or daughter has a disabling condition as described above, you may want to explore 504 Plans and the benefits they can provide to students.
Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my full disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.