Parents of children who have impairments (physical, mental or both) but who do not qualify as “disabled” under federal or state law, may feel like their child will never be able to be fully successful at school. However, there is an option to ensure their child can be a success in school: New York 504 accommodations.
A 504 accommodation is so named because it was created by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This act mandates that schools offer reasonable accommodations to children with mental or physical impairments. The only caveat is that these impairments must substantially limit one or more major life activities. These include learning, walking, speaking, seeing and hearing.
Can be sporadic (episodic) or a short-term impairment
One great feature of 504 accommodations is that the impairment need not be constant. For example, if someone has asthma, their impairment is not constant, but they may need a reasonable accommodation to participate in gym class to avoid a flair up. Similarly, a child may need an accommodation for their ADD or ADHD, even though either may not affect them in everything they do. In addition, a short-term impairment, like a broken arm or leg can also qualify a student for a 504 accommodation. Of course, this will be on a case-by-case basis and depend on the nature and extent of the short-term impairment.
Impairment does not have to relate to learning
A key misunderstanding that some Staten Island parents have about 504 accommodations is that the physical or mental impairment does not have to be related to learning. Indeed, it only relates to whether that impairment affects a major life activity.
Requesting an accommodation
All New York schools have forms to request a 504 accommodation, and after it is turned into the school, a 504 Coordinator with schedule a meeting with the parents. They will also create a 504 Team to decide if the child has a qualifying impairment and what accommodations they will need to be successful at school. Unfortunately, not all schools engage in the process, and sometimes, parents need an attorney.