What is a 504 Plan? Help!

“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.”
― Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid


As parents we know that our child is struggling in school, or with their homework, understanding the material, finishing homework.  We may also wonder why it takes them so long to finish their homework; does it take this long for all students?  We may also wonder is there anything, an evaluation, a test that the teacher could do to figure out what can be done to help my kid.

You are on the right track, the first place we need to go is to the teacher. Explain the him or her what we are seeing at home. If the student struggles with completing the homework, how long does it take for them to finish. If they struggle with completing the reading assignment, how long does it take them to complete that and do they understand what they read once they finished. Likewise for any math homework and projects they have to complete. This is gathering the data. Remember we have talked about becoming aware that without data it will be hard to prove our case. The reason we want to collect this information if because teachers have an idea of how long it should take a typical student to complete the readings, homework, math problems, etc. Any longer than that, the teacher may see that the student is struggling either to comprehend the material or are unable to complete the assignment for some other reason. The teacher may then see what accommodations or modifications can be done in order for the student to be successful.

The teacher may ask you to sign permission for the school to do testing and evaluations. This is a great thing, because it will allow the teachers to see where the child is and if there is anything that is affecting how the student is learning or processing information.  I would also suggest you talk to the child’s doctor; sometimes there are medical causes for the inability to process information or learn at the same pace as the child’s peers.

What the Law say?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Public Law # 93-112, is American legislation that guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. It was the first U.S. federal civil rights protection for people with disabilities.

Section 504 states (in part):

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or 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 or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.

Who is a person with a disability according to Section 504?

We will focus mainly on what the law states for purpose of education and learning. According to the law,

Any person who (a) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (b) has a record of such an impairment, or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment


“Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, and learning”


What is a 504 plan?

A 504 plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for a student to have an opportunity to perform at the same level as their peers, and might include such things as wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, medications, an extra set of textbooks, reduced homework, longer testing time, a peanut-free lunch environment, home instruction, or a tape recorder or key board for take notes among others.


Schools are expected to make sound educational decisions for the child to receive an appropriate education. As parents we are encouraged to ask and to contribute information about our children to the school. Some of the obvious problems a child may be having are:

  • Falling grades
  • Performing below expectations
  • Inability to focus and/or complete classroom work
  • Disrupting the classroom and/or interfering with other children’s learning experience
  • Failure to complete homework or assigned tasks
  • Poor testing abilities, including finishing tests on time, to understand and follow directions
  • Anger outbursts, meltdowns and/or discipline problems at school

What a 504 plan will not do

As we said before, what we want for our children is to have the same opportunities as their peers and just provide them with the opportunity to do what they can with the accommodations and modifications they need to be successful. So the plan will not:

  • Guarantee that the child will pass his or her current grade
  • Transfer from State to State
  • Include provision for removing a student from his classroom for individualized or specialized instruction
  • Does not have to be written, but when best practices are done, a written document is provided to parents and teachers
  • Although parents don’t have to be invited to participate, schools typically ask the parents to help create and monitor the 504 plan.

Where can I implement a 504 plan?

As we discussed before, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act covers any institution that receives Federal Financial Assistance, this may include schools, universities, colleges or other institutions of higher learning. This is good news for students who might want to continue their studies and go on to college or to work.

As parents we all want the same thing, for our children with or without disabilities to learn, to gain knowledge and skills that they will need to be able to function in society and in life after graduation.


Sample Request for 504 Plan Letter

Center for Parent Information and Resources : http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/section504/


Luz Adriana

My name is Luz Adriana Martinez and for the past 27 years I have been working in the field of advocacy for children with disabilities. I hold an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.

I’m married to a great guy, Tito, an Army Veteran of 22 years, who supports all the crazy things I do. Being an Army wife also prepared us to be always on the move and without daddy for long periods of time. This also gave me the opportunity work and volunteer with organizations whose mission was to assist other military families. This blog results from my desire to give back to the many families that have given me and mine so much. I have had the fortune to be able to travel the world assisting military families and now that that stage of my life is over, I want to continue to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can still provide some information and resources to families who need it.

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Thanks for the comment. Anything else we should be talking about?