The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 / Section 504

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies; programs that receive federal financial assistance; in federal employment; and in the employment practices of federal contractors. The standards for deciding if employment discrimination exists under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like the ADA, the Rehab Act has several sections to it.

Section 504 of the Rehab Act makes it illegal for federal agencies, or programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance or are conducted by a federal agency, to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. Requirements under Section 504 include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each federal agency has its own set of Section 504 regulations that apply to its programs. For example, the U.S. Department of Education, makes sure that students with disabilities get the kinds of educational services they need to succeed in school.


Understanding Section 504

Section 504 is a federal rights statute which protects the rights of students with disabilities. A 504 Accommodation Plan is designed for a student with a disability according to individual need. Examples of potential 504 handicapping conditions are:

  • Communicable diseases - HIV, Tuberculosis
  • Medical conditions - asthma, allergies, diabetes
  • Temporary medical conditions due to illness or accident
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD, ADHD)
  • Behavioral difficulties
  • Other conditions

How does a student Qualify for a 504 Accommodations Plan?

Any student who has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities, has record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment, is eligible for a 504 Accommodations Plain.

What is a major life activity?

Major life activities include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, reading concentrating, sleeping, bladder function, digestive functions, eating and so on.

What is a substantial limitation?

Section 504 does not define "substantial limitation." However, the Americans With Disabilities Act EEOC guidelines suggest it means "unable/significantly limited ability to perform an activity compared to the average population."