504 Plan vs IEP: Similarities and Differences

Special education is supported by multiple plans to ensure individualized training and assistance for children. These focus on bridging gaps making them market ready to compete. 

There are two popular plans: IEP and 504, which focus on children with disabilities. With a couple of options in hand, mentors may need to comprehend in detail which attributes are similar and distinct in these plans. To assist with the same, we here elucidated in detail the comparison between IEP and 504 plan. 

Understanding 504 plan and IEP

The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a program designed to ensure that a child with a disability who is enrolled in an institute receives customized teaching and related services. Pupils that meet at least one of the 14 qualifying inability categories recognized by IDEA and need special education services receive an IEP.

The 504 Plan is a strategy for ensuring that a legitimately diagnosed disabled child who is enrolled in an academy obtains modifications that will enable academic performance and access to the learning environment. Students that significantly impede a key life function but do not fulfill the criteria for an IEP may receive a  504 plan.

504 and IEP- What are the similarities?

Just like their definitions, IEP and 504 plans have some similarities making them equally accommodative for special children on certain grounds. Let us look into these traits in detail:

  1. The federal government established both the IEP and the 504 plan. 
  2. Both documents detail the adjustments that must be given for the student in accordance with federal law.
  3. Both documents are sent to all educators and service providers who are in charge of the student mentioned in the document.
  4. Both are subject to federal and state regulations.
  5. Focused on assisting individuals with disabilities, both IEP and 504 focus on making academics and life at academies easier. They support the use of manipulatives, accommodations, and also additional care of special people. 
  6. No matter the students opt for a 504 plan or an IEP, they all are protected under the Section 504 laws 
  7. In both the options, students have a chance to study in a regular classroom- provided with some assistance. 
  8. Both 504 and IEP support and offer services like physical, occupational, and language therapy for needy aspirants. 
504 vs IEP - Similarities and differences

504 Plan and IEP- Differences

Below are some of the key differences between IEP and 504 plans that a mentor or instructor may understand before opting for one:

1. Definition,  motive, and funding 

Section 504 is more focused on mitigating differences in schools, colleges, and other places due to some personal compromises. These are institute-based provisions and thereby may need special funds. On the other hand, IEP is focused on supporting special individuals. With the support of FAPE regulations, it can offer better support to special individuals with no or minimum costs, thereby need no funding.

2. Style of accommodations 

Section 504 stipulates the academies to ensure those provisions that are accommodative and logically reasonable for the students. This way, it constrains schools from providing unethical profits to selected students. 

Nonetheless, IDEA develops a detailed program that can be implemented for a student based on their needs. This way the derivations taken from the analysis make it tailor-made for the kid. Also, the plans change with students and also with time. 

3. Cost considerations 

These services from the 504 plan are provided free of charge to students. States do not get additional cash for kids who are qualified. Nonetheless, the federal government has the authority to withhold money from programs (including schools) that do not comply. Students with 504 plans are not eligible for IDEA money.

In IEP, The services are provided free of charge to students. For qualifying pupils, states receive additional funds.

4. Qualification 

Autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment are among the 13 disability categories used to determine IEP eligibility (including blindness). The 504 qualifications, on the other hand, are based on history and kind of impairment. The information is obtained from the history of the medical condition in distinct forms and is later exposed to supervisors, safety personnel, and government officials only. 

5. How often it is reviewed

504 plans are often variable from one state to another. Once applied there are often no validity concerns for the plan. Nonetheless, it needs regular reevaluations to check if any significant change is needed.

However, once the IEP is ensured for a child, it is re-evaluated every three years. At every analysis, the progress of the candidate is checked thoroughly. By, this decision to rationalize or further emphasize the goals.

6. Eligibility criteria

Under the 504 plan, There are two conditions: the first is that youngster is disabled.  And secondly, The condition must make it difficult for the kid to study in a general education classroom. IDEA’s definition of disability is narrower than Section 504’s.

Under IEP, there are two conditions:  A child has one or more of the IDEA’s 13 specified impairments. And second, the condition must have an impact on the child’s academic performance and capacity to learn and benefit from a general education curriculum, necessitating specialized instruction.

7. Role of parents

Sections 504, though provides information to parents about the implementations, their condense is often not prioritized. Their inputs can be taken by schools on other grounds but these do not reflect on their decision of accommodations. 

On the other hand, IDEA gives importance to parents’ options. In fact, parents are stakes in this strategy. All the mentors (parents, teachers, and the official staff) combinedly take decisions regarding the goal list and rectifications if any.

8. How are pupils analyzed?

Ideas have a detailed set of predetermined evaluations that are done once in three years to ensure apt accommodations. Triennial meetings are conducted before making any appropriate changes in provisions.

Nevertheless, the evaluations scheme of 504 Section is not often fixed. The special committee determines the basis of analysis before every scheduled meeting. These mostly refer to previously set accommodations to the present status of students.

9. Inclusion of goals 

Since the 504 plan implementation applies at the school level, there are generally no goals to be analyzed here. The accommodations are formed to assist children to bridge gaps only. The evaluation if any only happens only to check how effectively these are implemented and to what extent are children making out of it. 

On the contrary, IEP is all about making, evaluating, and implementing a set of goals. These are the objectives that mark the targets that students are expected to reach. These form the standard for regular evaluation. For this reason, regular internal checks and official checks get obligatory.

10. Academic inference

Plan 504 is all about making the regular academics interpretable to the special students. Whereas, IEP focuses on making modifications to the academic structure to make it apt for the pupil.  So, for the learning disabled for example, plan 504 may focus on making changes in fonts or new teaching strategies on the syllabus content. But, IEP may remove a few topics that can be arduous for these individuals.


On a broader view, there are several parallels and distinctions between Section 504 and IDEA. The basic line, whether it is the civil rights legislation of Section 504 or the educational act law of IDEA, is the goal of the law. IDEA is geared at ensuring the success of a kid with a disability, whereas Section 504 is aimed at ensuring access for a child with a disability. IDEA frequently necessitates significant changes to instructional materials in order to comply with Section 504. Comprehending the similarities and differences between these two may be essential for better decisions, and we hope these insights mentioned above will succeed. 

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