If your child needs extra help or accommodations at school, you might be able get help through a Section 504 plan. A Section 504 plan helps your child get accommodations (changes in how content is taught, supported, or tested) that will help them participate in the classroom or other school activities. Children might receive 504 services for many reasons. A few examples of 504 accommodations include: getting extra time on a test; sitting at the front of the class to reduce distractions; having a handrail or ramp installed in the school; having a test read to them; and classroom changes to manage food allergies.
Section 504 uses a very broad definition of the word “disability.” So students who are approved to get more extensive special education services covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can also get 504 services. Other students who do not need – or are not approved to get – special education services may also be able to get 504 services.
Section 504 doesn’t cover or list specific diagnoses. Instead, it defines a disability as something that “greatly limits one or more major life activities.” Examples of major life activities include learning, reading, writing, concentrating, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, interacting with others, and working.
Children usually get services under Section 504 when:
Your adult child can continue to receive Section 504 accommodations if they are attending a college or university that gets federal funds. You or your child can check with the Section 504 representative to learn more.
If your child’s teachers see a reason for a 504 evaluation, the school doesn’t need your permission. They just need to let you know that they are doing the evaluation and its results.
You can also ask for a Section 504 evaluation for your child. To get one, write to your school district’s 504 contact person. You can call your child’s school to find out who this person is.
In some school districts, you can also ask the school counselor for this evaluation. Here is a sample 504 request letter from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund website.
If your child is approved for 504 services, your child’s school will work with you to create a 504 plan for your child. This plan is similar to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and is specific to your child’s needs.
If your request for evaluation and testing is not approved, the school must tell you their reasons in writing and let you know what you can do to appeal their decision. Or, if you disagree with the school’s evaluation and testing results, you can ask for a “due process hearing” or file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights on the OCR Complaint Assessment System web page. Ask the school administration for a copy of the Notice of Parent and Student Rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Accommodations and modifications under Section 504 include many different things, and we’ve listed some examples below.
Examples of accommodations are:
Examples of testing (both classroom and standardized tests) accommodations are:
Your child can also get accommodations for college entrance tests, such as the SAT or ACT. They will have to send in a letter from their doctor or school as proof that they need accommodations. The process often takes a long time, so be sure to plan ahead (at least 8 weeks and sometimes longer).
Parents talk about ways they’ve used 504 for their children:
“My school did a 504 evaluation on my son and only told me about it later. I didn’t expect that.”
“My daughter’s 504 plan has her spending time with a literacy specialist, and has a behavior plan that helps her with her ADHD.”
“My daughter is very allergic to peanuts. Having a child open a snack sent her to the ER in preschool. Her 504 plan calls for a peanut-free classroom and lunchroom.”