Click here for detailed Section 504 - US Department of Labor
Section 504 is a very brief law; however, detailed regulations regarding implementation can be
found in 34 C.F.R. Part 104.
The law states:" No otherwise qualified disabled* individual in the United States
shall solely by reason of his disability, be excluded from the participation in,be
denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity
receiving federal financial assistance." Since federal financial assistance includes
veterans' education benefits and the Basic and Supplemental Educational Opportunity
Grant Program, few, if any, universities are exempted from complying with Section
According to this law, a ''disabled'' individual is a person who has a ''physical
or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities
and includes specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia. With regard to post
secondary education students, ''qualified'' refers to a disabled person who meets
the ''academic and technical standards'' required for admission or participation in
an educational program or activity. Section 504 requires that faculty, administration,
and staff be apprised of the following:
- No student can be excluded from any course, major, or program solely on the basis
of a disability.
- Certain academic adjustments, commonly referred to as accommodations, are mandated
especially in regard to the provision of alternative testing and evaluation methods
for measuring student mastery, except when such an alteration would result in a modification
to course objectives.
- Modifications, substitutions, or waivers of a course, major, or degree requirements
are discussed in the regulations implementing Section 504 and may be necessary to
meet the needs of some students with learning disabilities.
- Changes in time limits to complete a degree may have to be made.
- It is discriminatory to restrict the range of career options in counseling/advising
students with disabilities as compared to non-disabled students with similar interests
and abilities unless such counsel is based on strict licensing or certification requirements
in a profession that may comprise an obstacle. In such cases, the counselor/advisor
should inform the student of these requirements so he/she can assess them in light
of the disability and make an informed decision.
*The term "handicapped" is no longer preferred.
Students bring a unique set of strengths and experiences to college, and students
with disabilities are no exception. While many learn in different ways, their differences
do not imply inferior capacities. There is no need to dilute curriculum or to reduce
course requirements for students with disabilities. However, special accommodations
may be needed, as well as modifications in the way information is presented and in
methods of testing and evaluation. Faculty will be aided in these efforts by drawing
upon the students' own prior learning experience, using available university and department
resources, and collaborating with Disability Support Services.
Determining that a student has a disability may not always be a simple process. Visible
disabilities are noticeable through casual observation- an immediately recognizable
physical impairment or the use of a cane, service animal, wheelchair, or crutches.
Hidden disabilities such as hearing impairments, legal blindness, cardiac conditions,
learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and psychiatric or seizure
disorders usually are not apparent. Multiple disabilities which are caused by such
primary conditions as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis may
have secondary impairments in mobility, vision, speech or coordination which may,
in fact, pose greater difficulties.
- Divide the responsibilities: Students with disabilities bear the primary responsibility
for identifying their disabilities and making necessary adjustment to the environment.
However, for test arrangements and the use of department resources, cooperation of
the faculty member is vital.
- Faculty-Student Relationships: Dialogue between the student and instructor is essential
early in the term, and follow-up meetings are recommended. Faculty should not feel
apprehensive about discussing the student's needs as they relate to the course. However,
care should be taken to avoid generalizing a particular limitation to other aspects
of a student's functioning. The student's own suggestions, based on experience with
the disability and with school work, are invaluable in accommodating disabilities
- Attendance and promptness: The student using a wheelchair and other assistive devices
may encounter obstacles or barriers in getting to class on time. Others may have periodic
or irregular difficulties, either from their disability or from medication. Flexibility
in applying attendance and promptness rules to such students would be helpful.
- Classroom adjustments: A wide range of students with disabilities may be served in
the classroom by making book lists available prior to the beginning of the term, by
thoughtful seating arrangements, by speaking directly toward the class, and by writing
key lecture points and assignments on the chalkboard and saying them aloud.
- Functional problems: Sometimes unexpected manifestations of a disability occur such
as chronic weakness and fatigue. Prescribed medication may cause drowsiness or impairments
in memory or speed.
- Note taking: Students who cannot take notes or have difficulty taking notes adequately
will require note takers and/or tape recorders in class. When a note taker request
is made by a student, faculty members can be of valuable assistance by writing the
name and telephone number of the coordinator of Disability Support Services on the
chalkboard and asking interested note takers in the class to contact the DSS office.
- Testing and evaluation: Depending on the disability, the student may require the administration
of examinations orally, the use of readers and/or scribes, extensions of time for
the duration of exams, a modification of the test formats or, in some cases, make-up
or take-home exams. For out of class assignments, the extension of deadlines may be
justified. The objective of such considerations should always be to accommodate the
student's learning differences, not to water down scholastic requirements. The same
standards should be applied to students with disabilities as to all other students
in evaluation and assigning grades.