504 Plan Eligibility Fact Sheet

Kathleen J. Giordano

504 plans provide the necessary services, accommodations, and modifications for students with disabilities to guarantee equal access to free and appropriate education from schools.

This fact sheet provides the basics about 504 plans and what they offer. It provides an overview about 504 plans; determining students’ eligibility; defining an impairment; and additional resources for further information.

504 Plans provide services, accommodations and modifications for students with disabilities and ensures they receive equal access to free and appropriate education from schools that receive federal funding. The following is a summary of information regarding 504 Plan eligibility for students with Tourette Syndrome (TS), emphasizing the provisions that apply specifically to students with TS.

Understanding Section 504
For a student to be found eligible for a 504 Plan, it must be demonstrated that the student’s symptoms substantially limit a ‘major life activity’. Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Symptoms of TS can impact students’ ability to read, concentrate, think, and communicate1. The law states “that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.” 1This is particularly critical as a hallmark of TS due to the inconsistent and episodic nature of TS.

Defining an Impairment
An impairment, under Section 504, includes any disability, long-term illness, or a disorder that can significantly decrease a student’s ability to access learning in an educational setting due to a learning-, behavior-, or health-related condition 1. If an impairment limits at least one major life activity, it is still considered a disability. It is common for students with TS to spend considerably more time completing a task, due to the complexity of the disorder, compared to a student without a disability.

Determining Eligibility
Many students with TS are mistakenly denied eligibility because of their above average grades and/or high achievement assessment scores. Section 504 states that students can be found to be eligible, regardless of their intelligence, if the disability results in students being unable to fully demonstrate their ability.2,3 A student may still qualify for a 504 Plan even when the symptoms are being managed with medication, specific strategies, or undocumented supports.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 states: “The effect of these changes is to make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.”4 This Act “emphasizes that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA and generally shall not require extensive analysis.”4

Funding for this article was made possible in part by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.