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IDEA, Section 504, IEP

Section 504, the ADA, and Public Schools - This document from LD Online explains the differences between these topics.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a Federal Law which guarantees all children with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21 years the right to a free appropriate education (FAPE) designed to meet their individual needs.  The law also protects the rights of children with disabilities and their parents, guardians or surrogate parents.  This law establishes the process for determining your child's educational needs and getting special education services, if your child's requires them.

In an educational setting, this law is usually complied with by developing an IEP or Individual Education Program for the student with disabilities.  It is a written plan describing educational needs and services.  The IEP is written by a team, including the parents, at an IEP meeting.

Related links:

Operating Standards For Ohio's Schools Serving Children With Disabilities

Who's IDEA is This? A Resource Guide For Parents - Parent's Procedural Safeguards - This publication establishes and explains your right to a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) for a child with a qualifying disability under special education law.  It tells you how special education services are provided and also lists resources you may contact for assistance.  This handout will serve as a valuable resource for your child's education.


Section 504

Section 504 refers to the Civil Rights section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  It is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.  The United States Congress passed this legislation in order to "eliminate discrimination on the basis of handicap in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."   Section 504 ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications.   Section 504 is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) by phone:       1-800-421-3481.

IDEA vs. Section 504 & Title II

To be protected under IDEA, a child must have a particular disability listed in IDEA.  Further, a child with a listed disability must need special education and related services as a result of the disability.

Under Section 504, a qualified student with a disability is protected whether or not the student needs special education.

Unlike the (IDEA), Section 504 does not require the school to provide an individualized educational program (IEP) that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and provides the child with educational benefit. School district's are responsible to develop an educational plan designed to meet the student's needs as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. Fewer procedural safeguards are available for disabled children and their parents under Section 504 than under IDEA.

School districts are responsible to:

1)  Identify and locate qualified handicapped students residing the school district and notify the student's parents or guardians of 

     the opportunity for the student to receive a free and appropriate public education.

2)  Evaluate any student who, due to a handicap, needs:

    *accommodation in the regular classroom,

    *requires special education

    *requires relate aids and services

3)  After the evaluation:

    *utilize a multi-disciplinary team of persons knowledgeable about the student to determine the appropriate placement, and

    *develop an educational plan designed to meet the student's needs as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped persons are

      met (from the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities)


A person with a disability is:


    - Any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;


      OR - has a record of such an impairment;   OR - is regarded as having such an impairment.


Major Life Activities: (This is a non-exhaustive list of major life activities)


    - Caring for oneself                     - Speaking

    - Performing manual tasks           - Breathing

    - Walking                                   - Learning

    - Seeing                                    - Working

    - Hearing                                


Each school district must designate an employee to coordinate compliance (a "504 Coordinator").

A 504 Plan is used when a child has learning difficulties or differences, or a physical handicap, but does not meet the strict criteria needed  

to have an IEP.  The 504 Plan is usually made up of modifications, adaptations, and interventions meant to help the student be successful in 

school, and/or to make the curriculum or facilities and programs accessible to them.  The plan is developed by a team, including the parent, person

who is knowledgeable about the student and his/her needs.  There are no official 504 plans schools must use.  They are free to develop their



A 504 regulation requires recipients to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE)


Related links:


Section 504 updated: Greater eligibility and accommodations for students with LD, AD/HD -

Office for Civil Rights - U.S. Department of Education

Section 504, the ADA, and Public Schools - LD Online

Discussion of 504,the ADA, and the IDEA - Wrights Law

Section 504 & IDEA: Basic Similarities & Differences - LD Online

Section 504 - Articles from


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An individualized education program (IEP) is a written plan for a child with a disability that is developed and implemented according to federal and state regulations.  The IEP meeting must be held within 30 days of a determination about eligibility and need for special education services. 


Checklist to help develop IEP's:


               IEP Review Checklist from Wrightslaw



Related links:


IEP Facilitation Procedures for Special Education - Request IEP Facilitation if the team has trouble coming to an agreement during

the IEP process.  This is a FREE service.

Understanding Individualized Education Programs (IEP) -


A Guide to the Individualized Education Program - Good step by step guide from

Checklist: 9 Things to Double-Check Before Signing an IEP -

How to Handle Disagreements at IEP Meetings (or Playing 20 Questions With the Devil) - Wrights Law

Writing Good IEP Goals & Objectives - Wrights Law

8 Steps to Better IEP Meetings, Play Hearts, Not Poker - Wrights Law

A Seven-Step Process to Creating Standards-based IEP's - NASDSE Project Forum



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