Rehabilitation Act Section 504: Accommodations & Regulations

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  • 0:05 Section 504 and Who It Affects
  • 2:02 Employment Accommodations
  • 2:35 Educational Accommodations
  • 3:27 Employment Regulations
  • 4:23 Educational Regulations
  • 6:07 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Read on to learn how Section 504 affects employers, students and teachers in companies and schools.

Section 504 and Who It Affects

Did you ever have a friend at school who had to use crutches or a wheelchair? Maybe you shared your lunch table with a fellow student who had Down Syndrome or needed insulin injections. If so, your friend or fellow student most benefited from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the first law that was passed in the United States to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. The important part says:

'No qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.'

The post office isn't the only agency the legislation singles out; it also specifically targets schools. Section 504 says that schools can't discriminate against disabled persons based on their disability in employment or in education. In sum, Section 504 says schools need to give students with disabilities the same education as mainstream students. Additionally, schools can't refuse to hire or fail to promote someone with a disability who is otherwise qualified.

So, who is disabled under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act? A qualified individual with a disability is one who has a history of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing and speaking; you get the idea. To be a qualified individual with a disability for the purpose of getting a job, you must be able to perform the essential functions of a job with reasonable accommodation.

Employment Accommodations

In an employment setting, Section 504 says that a qualified employee is one who can do the job with a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation means anything an employer can do to help you do the job, without causing undue hardship to the company. For example, an employer might provide a sign language interpreter for someone who is deaf. If an accommodation gets too expensive or disruptive, it may no longer be reasonable, and an employer might not have to provide it.

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