What is a 504 PLAN?
The number "504" refers to Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, which states that no one with a disability can be excluded from federally funded programs or activities, including education. Under this law, disability is defined as "a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities." Specific Learning Disability is listed as an example of such an impairment, and learning is listed as an example of a major life activity. Since dyslexia affects learning, it should be eligible based on the definition. A 504 Plan contains the specific accommodations that a student receives. Accommodations are changes and adjustments made to give students with disabilities equal access to the curriculum.
Parents who want a 504 Plan for their child should do the following:
- Review the Resource Guide to Section 504 from the US Department of Education,
- Locate and read their district's 504 plan procedures,
- Send their school a request for a 504 Plan in writing,
- Go to the meeting with documentation of your child's diagnosis and a list of requested accommodations.
Here is a sample letter requesting a 504 Plan and list of possible accommodations for an IEP or a 504 Plan. Bright Solutions for Dyslexia also has an excellent video and handout about accommodations for a student with dyslexia.
Parents frequently report their child could not get a 504 Plan because he is she was not academically behind, or not discrepant enough from their peers. Being academically behind is NOT required to get a 504 Plan! The U.S. Office of Civil Rights which governs Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act has issued several documents which explain this. These documents say that parents do not have to go to extensive means to prove their child has a disability that is substantially limiting. The relevant sections of the below documents are highlighted in yellow:
- Resource Guide to Section 504
- Office of Civil Rights 504 Plans FAQ
- Office of Civil Rights Summary of the Amendments Act
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has no enforcement authority for this law. The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) takes complaints regarding Section 504. Here is the 504 Plan page on MDE's website.
Accessible Instructional Material
Having your child, who has an IEP or 504, have access to Accessible Instruction Material (AIM) can make all the difference in their education. AIM is for all students who qualify as having a "print disability" and provides them access to textbooks and other materials in accessible forms such as braille, audio, and digital text.
For more information about IEP's and 504 Plans, visit the following websites:
- Wrightslaw IEP Page - legal information
- Identifying and Evaluating Students for Special Education Services - from the MN Disability Law Center
- Special Education Advisor - many fact sheets about special education
- Comparison chart between IDEA and Section 504 - from Understood
We would like to give Katie Greving, President, DDIA credit for most of the content of this page.