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504 Plans in Wisconsin

Instructor: Bill Sands
Students with disabilities in Wisconsin public schools (and throughout the country) are often eligible for accommodations and adjustments to ensure that they receive a proper education. These provisions are outlined in 504 plans, named for the law that created them.

Section 504 & Wisconsin

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, also known as the 'Rehab Act,' forbids federal agencies, as well as other entities receiving federal funding, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 of this act requires public schools to make accommodations and provide assistance to such individuals, and from this portion comes the term '504 plan.'

Section 504 is a federal mandate with which all states must comply. The law makes no exceptions for any geographic regions, and as such 504 plans in Wisconsin are no different from those found anywhere else in the country. In almost all cases, a student's individual needs and disabilities will have a greater impact on a 504 plan than his or her location.

What Is a 504 Plan?

504 plans outline the strategies used to help students with disabilities receive the same education as their classmates. These plans assess potential barriers and limitations that a student may encounter and devise solutions to help students overcome said obstacles.

504 plans are typically drawn up by individuals with some connection to a student. Special education teachers, administrators, and general education teachers can all contribute ideas, and parents are often asked to provide insight. In some cases, students may be allowed to help design their own plans, although their participation is not always guaranteed.

What Types of Accommodations Are Included?

Because what is ideal for one student may be completely inappropriate for another, Section 504 does not place any stipulations on the types of accommodations that can be included in a 504 plan. Students' needs are determined on an individual basis and can include such accommodations as access to medication and handicap accessible buildings as well as provisions that allow students to attend field trips or take part in extracurricular activities. A plan for a student with diabetes, for example, may include regular breaks for blood testing, unlimited bathroom access, and a guarantee that the school employs a certain number of trained staff who can provide support.

If you're looking to learn more about how to develop an ideal 504 plan, check out these Resources for Teaching Special Education and this course on the Fundamentals of Early Childhood Special Education. These online resources include sample 504 plans in addition to best practices for providing differentiated and inclusive instruction to students with special needs.

Who Qualifies for 504 Plans?

Section 504 outlines the main criteria which students must meet in order to be deemed eligible. First and foremost, a student's disability must present a clear hindrance to his or her ability to participate in daily activities that range from learning and speaking to walking and providing self care. Disabilities must also be permanent. Injuries such as broken limbs may present difficulties, but will heal in time, whereas food allergies are much more likely to qualify a student for a plan.

School officials must conduct an evaluation to determine whether or not a student's disability meets these criteria. Only after identifying any potential issues will a plan be developed to address them. Should a student qualify for a plan, Section 504 calls for periodic re-assessments to measure a student's progress and make any necessary adjustments as the student's abilities develop.

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