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504 Plans in California

Instructor: Bill Sands
Students with a disability that significantly impacts their ability to learn may be eligible for a 504 plan. These plans provide accommodations to help make the learning process smoother and more effective.

504 Plans Overview

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that prevents discrimination against students with disabilities. Under this provision, any school that receives federal funding must make accommodations to ensure that all students with disabilities are guaranteed a free public education. A 504 plan refers to the methods and strategies designed by teachers, parents, and administrators to comply with this law.

Since 504 plans were created by a federal law, California school districts are bound by the same rules as all other states. A plan designed in California is required to follow the same guidelines as a plan designed in Maine or any other state.

Designing a 504 Plan

While all plans must adhere to the regulations explained in Section 504, no two plans are alike. Students with disabilities require highly individualized instruction; an ideal plan for one student may be disastrous for another, even if they have the same disability.

To make sure a plan adequately meets the needs of the student, the design process involves plenty of coordination and teamwork. Plans are developed by a committee consisting of school administrators, teachers, and the student's parents. Students may also help design their plans if they are deemed to be of an appropriate age and maturity level.

504 Plan Eligibility

Whereas Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) have rigorous standards for special needs students seeking eligibility, Section 504 defines 'disability' in a much broader and more general sense. Instead of listing disabilities (as the IEP standards do), the section merely names the various traits of disorders. Eligible students include those who:

  • Suffer from a disability that severely hinders their ability to carry out essential life activities such a seeing, walking, or reading.
  • Have an officially documented physical or mental impairment.
  • Have a 'non-temporary' disability. Students with an impairment that isn't permanent or long-lasting (illness, broken bone, etc.) will not be considered eligible.

Despite this broad definition, simply having a disability does not immediately qualify a student for a 504 plan. The school must perform an evaluation to determine how significantly a student's disability impacts his or her ability to learn.

504 Plan Content

504 plans are designed on a case-by-case basis and are specifically tailored to a student's individual needs. Most plans, however, include the following items:

  • A list of specific accommodations, modifications, and other academic support services.
  • Names of school staff who are responsible for providing these accommodations.
  • The individual responsible for monitoring the 504 plan and ensuring its proper implementation.

Outside of these requirements, schools are more or less free to design a plan as they see fit. Sample accommodations for 504 plans include:

  • A peer or professional tutor
  • Additional supervision during special events (assemblies, field trips, etc.)
  • Audiobooks for students who struggle with reading
  • Modified attendance policies

504 Educator Resources

If you're looking for more information on 504 plans, Study.com features several resources that review relevant terminology, and you can brush up on related terminology and educational strategies for students with disabilities. These resources come with sample 504 plans, and also provide information on how to create a general education classroom that is inclusive to students of all abilities and skill levels:

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