Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973

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Section 504 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of documented disability, history of a disability, or the appearance of having a disability. Any student who has been found eligible for special education services is also considered covered under Section 504. However, there are some students who may have a disability but are not eligible for special education services.

Just having a disability does not, by itself, make a student eligible under Section 504. The presence of the disability has to "substantially limit" the student's participation in, or access to, what the law calls a "major life activity." In the context of school, this is most often considered to be the activity of learning, but could also be others, such as the ability to access a class or activity.

When it looks like the student might not be able to participate in a "major life activity" such as learning like students without that disability, the school is required to make "reasonable accommodations." The purpose of these accommodations is for the student to have access to the same degree as other students. Many times teachers make these accommodations in many different ways on an informal level because they recognize the needs of the student. If, for whatever reason, the student is still substantially limited in his/her learning or other major life activity at school, then a referral to the building's Section 504 Coordinator should be considered.

To determine eligibility, each school has a designated evaluation team. If it appears that the impact of the student's disability requires him/her to receive specially designed instruction eligibility for special education must be evaluated. If the impact of the disability represents primarily an issue of having to find or create accommodations to insure equal access then a 504 plan needs to be developed.

Any decision concerning Section 504 eligibility or accommodations may be appealed to the district-level Section 504 coordinator.

Although there are some similarities between special education and Section 504, they are based on two very different principles. Special education eligibility is limited to a defined set of disabilities and a need for specially designed instruction, meaning the curriculum or way of teaching is distinctly altered or altogether different from the general curriculum. The focus of Section 504 is about defining reasonable accommodations to ensure non-discrimination and providing equal access.

Section 504 Procedural Safeguards


You have the right to:


  • Receive a free and appropriate public education.

  • Participate in and benefit from the district’s educational programs without discrimination.

  • Be provided an equal opportunity to participate in the district’s nonacademic and extracurricular activities.

  • Be educated with students who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.

  • Be educated in facilities and receive services that are comparable to those provided to students without disabilities.

  • Receive accommodations and/or related aids and services to allow your child an equal opportunity to participate in school activities.

  • Receive educational and related aids and services without cost, except for those fees imposed on the parents of children without disabilities.

  • Receive special education services if needed.

    To obtain a copy of this brochure in another format or language please contact the Olympia School District Special Services Office at 1113 Legion Way, SE, Olympia, WA 98501 (360) 596-7530, TDD (360) 596-7537.