Section 504 and Students with Disabilities

Picture of Heather Awbery

Heather Awbery

Director of Special Programs


Picture of Anita Blake

Anita Blake

Special Programs Administrative Assistant


Every student with a disability is protected from discrimination under federal law - Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity that receives funding from the federal government. All Washington state public schools must comply with this federal law.

Section 504 requires public schools to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to every student with a disability - regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, schools must provide students with disabilities the accommodations, aids and services they need to access and benefit from education equally with their peers. 

What is a disability under Section 504?

Section 504 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. This definition of disability should be interpreted broadly. Major life activities are activities that are important to most people's daily lives. Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating are some examples of major life activities. Major life activities also include major bodily functions, such as of the digestive, bowel, bladder, brain, circulatory, reproductive, neurological, or respiratory systems. Substantially limits should also be interpreted broadly. A student's impairment does not need to prevent or severely or significantly restrict a major life activity to be substantially limiting. 

How do I get an accommodation for my child?

Public schools must provide appropriate accommodations, aids and services to eligible students who need these accommodations to participate in, and benefit from, their education. This includes all programs and activities sponsored by the school, such as sports and field trips. These accommodations, aids and services are described in a 504 plan. Students who are entitled to a 504 plan: (1) have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of the major life activities, and (2) need accommodations, aids, or services - because of their disability - so they can access and benefit from their education. To determine whether or not a student needs a 504 plan, the school must follow these steps: refer, bring a 504 team together, and evaluate. 

Please contact your student's school regarding eligibility for a Section 504 Plan.