Eligibility Under Section 504:
A student shall be eligible for a Section 504 Service Plan if they satisfy all of the following criteria:
(1) Physical or Mental Impairment
A student must actually have a mental or physical impairment. A physical or mental impairment means: any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional, and specific learning disabilities. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. The law does not limit eligibility to specific diseases or categories of medical conditions.
(2) Substantially Limits
The student’s physical or mental impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. Section 504 does not specifically define the term “substantially limits.” It is subject to interpretation on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
Whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as: medication, medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; use of assistive technology; reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications. Thus, the ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.
(3) Major Life Activities
Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. Learning, reading, concentration, thinking, and communication are typically, but not always, the major life activities utilized to determine Section 504 eligibility in the schools.
“ Adapted with permission from GASELPA Section 504 Procedural Manual and Perry A. Zirkel, author of “Section 504, the ADA and the Schools” (© 2008).