What is a 504 Plan?

Before we define what a 504 plan is, we must understand what the '504' refers to - and yes, it is more than just a number. 504 stands for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. Within this legal document that applies to all US states, it is stated that people who have been confirmed as disabled cannot legally be disallowed from taking part in schemes, initiatives and activities that are funded by the Federal Government, and they may also be granted some extra help in their community. In the rest of this article, we elaborate on what this means for disabled citizens of the United States.

To be considered for a 504 plan, an individual must have a classified disability - be it on an physical or emotional level - that affects one's ability to carry out at least one major life activity. A major life activity is classed as something that helps us in taking care of ourselves, such as washing, talking, walking, breathing, listening, or learning.

Before a student is officially granted a 504 plan, their school teacher, guardian or doctor must refer them to the expert board, before an official meeting is held. Here, the decision as to whether or not a 504 certification is necessary is made, with a plan being formulated on an individual basis to help the student progress and lead an enjoyable, enriching life.

Now that we are increasingly aware of what a 504 plan is and how individuals are granted placement on one, we can begin to look at the key features of a typical program. As detailed above, such plans give students - regardless of their disability - an equal right to other students to take part in activities - providing they wish to do so and are humanely able.

If, for any reason, the person using the 504 plan is unable to participate in a particular activity, this is normally accommodated in some way. For instance, whereas other pupils might take part independently, disabled pupils can still join in, but with extra support from teaching staff if deemed necessary.

Other instances when a 504 plan can be used to help a disabled person live as normal a life as possible include having wheelchair ramps installed if access to a building is limited, and allowing diabetic students to eat lunch in a supervised environment. Pupils who struggle with concentration and take considerably longer to grasp learning concepts than others are often allocated a special teaching assistant for extra help during lesson time, and given additional flexibility.

The range of accommodations allowed for disabled pupils stretches on and on. However, when placed on a 504 plan, students are assessed to see what it is they require to live and work successfully. This information is then detailed on their plan, and they will show this to whoever is responsible upon request for a particular allowance.

The usage of 504 plans is always closely monitored to ensure they're not abused and that other students without such legal documents are not neglected. Overall, though, these programs really could mean a drastic improvement in educational standards for the disabled.