Any parent’s goal is to protect their child and make sure that they are afforded every opportunity, but for parents of disabled children, this may require more effort. The purpose of 504 plans is to establish a plan of action for disabled children in schools. 

This week, we explore the origins of 504 plans as well as their implementation in Florida schools. 

What Is A 504 Plan Exactly?

A 504 plan is, as stated above, a plan put together by parents, medical professionals, and educators to allow children with disabilities the opportunity to access public education.

The document gets its name from the law that established the concept of the plan. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was, in many ways a predecessor of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act expressly states that a school cannot deny students with disabilities the benefits of any programs, activities, or services that their nondisabled peers have access to.

In order to avoid the discrimination defined in Section 504, schools have 504 plans.

What Is The Difference Between IDEA & The Rehabilitation Act?

The Rehabilitation Act defines a disabled person as any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. 

The IDEA legislation focuses specifically on disabilities that impede a student’s success in school. The act establishes broad categories, but it cites specific issues that likely cause academic issues.

Due to this distinction, there is both overlap and distinction. All students who receive services from the IDEA legislation also qualify for a 504 plan. However, not all students who have a 504 plan qualify for IDEA benefits. 

Additionally, IDEA has limited applicability based on age: it applies to individuals from birth to age 21. Section 504 is applicable to people of all ages.

How Does A 504 Plan Come Together?

Typically, the initiation of a 504 plan comes from a parent, although it can originate from a teacher who notices a student struggling in a classroom.

If a parent initiates the 504 plan, it is important that they remember to share all that they can with teachers and administrators. Communication is key, because the more that parents communicate, the better that the school can accommodate their student. Communication also builds a strong relationship between schools and parents.

Picture a 504 plan as a triangle – one point is the child, one point is the parents, and one point is the teacher/school system. If the child is younger, the parent is likely the dominant point on this triangle. As they grow up, though, the child can find their own voice and express their own needs.

Ultimately, a 504 plan is a tool. A tool used by parents, students, and schools. 504 plans make sure that students are always included and afforded every opportunity. For more information about 504 plans, contact your school district.