Section 504 is a federal law that aims to protect the integrity of students and individuals with disabilities associated with programs and activities in institutions like schools and colleges that function on federal funds. This section is enforced by the US Department of education, which makes sure that a school district or an Institution under federal financial assistance provides Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to each and every person who is qualified with a disability regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
We are well versed with accommodations and benefits for regulations like the 504 plan. While it is assistive to needy special students, there is a definitive criterion that a pupil must fulfill which will make them fit and eligible to avail of the above said. However, lot many times we are not able to gather all the factors that a person would need to fit in the mould; for that, a checklist can come in handy. In this post, we have come up with a checklist that can assist you in finding out if your or your little one is eligible for the 504 plan.
Section 504, & whom does it cater to?
To provide a bigger view of section 504, we can say that it works in domains of educational institutions, employment practices, accessibility, health, welfare, and social services.
It aims to cater to individuals who
- Have a physical or mental disability that limits their daily life activities.
- Has a record of such condition
- Or has been regarded as having such an impairment
A 504 plan is often used when a pupil with some conditions does not qualify for special education. This happens when the disability of the child is not specified under the special education law that lists 14 specific disabilities as eligible for special education.
Anyone who suffers from a disorder is evidently eligible for a 504 plan if designated as qualified, and one of the major advantages of section 504 is that it also accounts for certain impairments that might be episodic or in remission.
Eligibility checklist for 504 plan
As mentioned above, the 504 plan makes any individual with a disorder eligible if they require aid and help to carry out activities of daily life. Thereby, referring to the points in the checklist below can help in identifying if an individual stands eligible for the provisions under Section 504.
- If the individual has any physical or mental impairment that might affect them neurologically, their respiratory functions, digestive or cardiovascular system, or skin.
- If they suffer from any psychological disorder like retardation, emotional or mental illness, or even specific learning disabilities.
- If the impairment creates substantial gaps in the daily functioning of an individual, disabling them to carry out activities like self-care, performing manual tasks, or something as basic as walking, hearing, speaking, or learning.
- If the individual presents the symptoms of a disability that will evolve and grow eventually, causing disruptions in the life of the individual.
- If the individual is under the remedial phase of a disability and requires aid to functioning.
- If the individual suffers from a disorder/disability that reflects episodically but hampers their functioning in any aspect.
- If the individual finds themselves performing fairly on their tasks but feels the need for continuous and seemingly non-resolvable help in related areas. Example: A student studies hard to score averagely on their exams but experiences extreme difficulty in articulating the words written on the question paper and requires constant help from the faculty to decode the same.
- Is the disability of the student limiting any daily major life activity? Through the rigorous process of evaluation and documentation, if a student does not present a limitation that is substantial or more than substantial then a student might not stand eligible for the provisions of section 504.
- If the individual has environmental, cultural, or economic difficulties along with characteristics of a mental or physical disability.
Measures for compliance of the plan
Several mandates have been implicated by the education department to ensure compliance of the 504 institutions under federal financial assistance. These include:
- Designating a section 504 coordinator for the district
- Maintaining a list of dissemination networks that involves community, non-governmental organizations, individuals, and facilities that can help in providing information about children with disabilities to reach them as effectively as possible.
- Publishing biennial news releases for the procedures that can help safeguard and respect individuals with a disability.
- Publishing the official information like their name, address of their office, number, and a brief of their responsibility
- In making the 504 plan more accessible by providing the program in facilities under the jurisdiction of federal assistance and providing an accessible platform for case-by-case evaluation eliminating extensive barriers to the compliance of the program.
- The application of a broad coverage program has also been mandated to allow accessibility not only in school buildings but also in accessory facilities such as government buildings and support facilities like parking spaces, restrooms, drinking fountains, and doors.
- Publishing notice or procedures for relocation or an assignment of programs or activities as and when necessary also allows a smooth application of the plan.
- 25 students in need of special education but under or no identification of their needs.
Before we wind up…
With an intention to fill gaps in society and the functioning of individuals, the 504 plan provides accommodations in an educational environment that allows students to prosper and grow in an equal environment. The information mentioned above discusses the type of population to which the 504 plan caters, along with the specific eligibility criteria that can help individuals in applying for the plan to avail of the provisions. It also states the guidelines and mandates maintained by the education department to ensure compliance with the provision for individuals in need.