Section 504 FAQ

 Authors:  Susan Patteson and Judy Butler


What is the purpose of Section 504?

Section 504’s main emphasis in the schools is equal educational opportunity, which is mainly accomplished by providing appropriate classroom accommodations to eligible disabled students. Section 504 also requires that eligible students are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in school extracurricular and nonacademic activities.

Section 504 is a nondiscrimination statute. The results of the disability must be that the student is unable to achieve equal access or benefit from the school’s program and activities as compared to a nondisabled peer. The existence of a physical or mental impairment does not mean that the child automatically qualifies under Section 504.

Who is disabled under Section 504?

An eligible Section 504 student is one with:

  1. a physical or mental impairment
  2. an impairment that substantially limits learning or another major life activity

The major life activities that were previously provided as examples were breathing, walking, seeing, hearing and learning. Through the ADA Amendment Act, Congress has provided examples of additional major life activities including major bodily functions (immune system, normal cell growth) as well as sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. The major life activities in Section 504 regulations have always been meant to be examples and not an exclusive or exhaustive listing.

Unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not list a few disabilities (each with strict eligibility criteria) which result in eligibility. Instead, a broad formula is used to include many more disabilities. Specific physical or mental impairments are not listed in the regulations “because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list .”  “ Department of Education”, last modified 3/17/2011,

American Disabilities Act and the Amendments Act of 2008

A person is substantially limited if he/she is: “Unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform,” 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j).(1)(i).   Within the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 122 STAT.3554 Public Law 110-325-Sept. 2008, Congress found that the current EOC ADA regulations defining the term “substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” are inconsistent with congressional intent, by expressing too high a standard.  Additionally, 122 STAT.3556 Public Law 110-325 –Sept. 25, 2008 states that “substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.”  Mitigating measures may be summarized to include medication, medical supplies or equipment, use of assistive technology, reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services, or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.

What is the role of Section 504 in the public schools?

34CFR 104.33(1) of Section 504 requires schools to provide a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to eligible students and the Free Appropriate Public Education and related aids and services are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of Sec  104.34, 104.35, and 104.36.  These sections of the federal educational code provide guidelines for how public schools (or recipients of federal financial assistance) will evaluate and re-evaluate, determine eligibility, placement and setting, and implement procedural safeguards.

It also requires non-discrimination in non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities (the non-FAPE activities) as well as compliance with Section 504 procedural requirements (notice, access to relevant records, opportunity for impartial due process hearings and a review process).

What is FAPE ?

A Free Appropriate Public Education is defined under 34 CFR 104.33.  In summary, this federal statute of Title 34 of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that each qualified handicapped person residing in the recipient’s jurisdiction receives an education that is:

  • free, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap
  • appropriate, either regular or special education and related aids and services, and
  • provided within the handicapped person’s Least Restrictive Environment.

ESC Region XIII’s online module “Understanding Basic 504 Procedures and Services: A Sample Campus Training Module” may be accessed by registering through our E-Campus system using Workshop # FA1224572.  This is a free, soon to be published online module that will assist district and campus staff in developing their own Section 504 processes to ensure FAPE and their adherence to Section 504 procedures.


ESC Region XIII Section 504 Site:

Judy Butler ( or 512.919.5168)

Susan Patteson (  or 512.919.5401)

Text of the federal statutes 34 CFR 104 of Section 504 and the ADA Amendments Act may be accessed through the Appendix of:

Texas Education Agency, “The Dyslexia Handbook-Revised 2007, Updated 2010: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders.”

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