504 Plans in Colorado

Instructor: Bill Sands
504 plans provide guidance and support for students with disabilities. Tailored to each student's individual needs, these plans allow all students to receive the same education, regardless of any potential barriers or obstacles.

504 Plan Overview

504 plans get their name from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 expressly mandates that public schools make accommodations to ensure that students with disabilities are able to receive the same learning experience as their peers.

Section 504 is a federal law, and as such all states must comply to the same set of rules. Colorado must be in compliance with the same laws that govern all other states. These plans focus on a student's academic progress, meaning a student's disability is much more likely to affect the plan than his or her location.

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 plan is a comprehensive educational path intended to remove any problems or obstacles that may be caused by developmental disabilities. 504 plans provide teachers and administrators alike with strategies and instructions for ensuring that each student's needs are met.

These plans are typically drawn up cooperatively. Administrators, general education teachers, and special education instructors work together to create plans, assisted with input from the child's parents. If a student is old enough or demonstrates enough maturity, he or she can sometimes provide suggestions and help develop the plan.

Who Qualifies for 504 Plans?

Section 504 does not provide a very rigid definition of the word 'disability.' Though there is an extensive evaluation process to classify students with disabilities, the section refrains from listing the names of specific maladies or disabilities. According to Section 504, a student's disability must be permanent if he or she is to qualify for a 504 plan. While a student with a broken arm may be disabled, the injury will heal in time, whereas a student suffering from ADHD will require much more attention over time. The disability must also significantly hinder a student's ability to learn; students with less severe disabilities may not always qualify for 504 plans.

How Does a 504 Plan Work?

Templates for 504 plans do not exist because each plan must be designed specifically for each student. An ideal plan for one student may be disastrous for another, and as such administrators and educators are given tremendous leeway when designing plans. A well-conceived 504 plan should first assess a student's disability and consider the most likely learning obstacles that the student can expect to face. After determining these potential issues, the plan can then find strategies to facilitate the learning process. The U.S. Department of Education recommends constant re-evaluation of a student's health and academic success so that adjustments can be made as needs change and deficiencies appear.

504 plans should also account for multiple situations. In addition to a standard classroom setting, the plan must also consider how to handle field trips, transportation, and extracurricular activities. Most plans also include a daily schedule, depending on a student's needs. For example, a student with diabetes may require several blood tests a day.

How Can I Learn More?

If you'd like to learn more about 504 plans and what they entail, offers multiple courses dealing with special education topics. Our Teaching Special Education course contains several lessons on 504 plans that cover topics such as implementing 504 plans in private schools and sample plans for conditions like anxiety or diabetes.

The course Fundamentals of Early Childhood Special Education also includes engaging lessons and quizzes on 504 regulations. It includes guidance on understanding the difference between Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans as well.

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