504 plan terms to know

At a glance

  • A 504 plan uses terms that you may not have seen or heard before.

  • Most of these words or phrases come from the law.

  • If you don’t know what a term means, it’s important to look it up or ask.

Understanding the language in a 504 plan can be a challenge. You may run into a lot of words and phrases you haven’t seen or heard before. Here are key terms to know.

Accommodation: An accommodation is a change to how or where a child is taught — or the materials used for teaching. Simple changes can help kids work around their learning challenges. For example, a teacher may allow a child who writes slowly to answer test questions orally.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It covers schools, many workplaces, and anyone who offers goods or services to the public. The definition of disability in ADA applies to 504 plans.

Disability: To get a 504 plan, a child must have a disability. This is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a person’s ability to participate in a major life activity. Kids who struggle with learning, reading, thinking, writing, or concentrating usually qualify.

General education curriculum: This is the knowledge and skills that all public school students are expected to master. It may be different from state to state. The goal of a 504 plan is to make sure a student with a disability has access to, or can take part in, the general curriculum.

Least restrictive environment (LRE): As much as possible, students with disabilities must learn in the same setting as other students. This is known as the least restrictive environment, and the law requires it.

Modification: A modification is a change in what a student is expected to learn. For example, instead of reading a book at grade level, a child might read a book written for two grade levels lower. In general, a child who needs modifications would have an IEP, not a 504 plan.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: This civil rights law is the source for 504 plans. Section 504 prohibits disability discrimination by any program that gets federal money, including public schools. Public K–12 schools must offer 504 plans. Colleges don’t have 504 plans, but they must still provide accommodations.

Supplementary aids and services: These supports help kids learn in the general education classroom. One example is , like audiobooks or keyboards.

Keep this list of terms handy for future reference. Not all of these terms will appear in a 504 plan, but they’ll be part of discussion between schools and families. Some may also appear in an Individualized Education Program ().

To learn more, look at key terms to know for a child’s education rights.

Key takeaways

  • Not all of these terms will appear in a 504 plan.

  • You may hear these terms during discussions between schools and families.

  • 504 plan terms overlap with some terms used in IEPs.


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