To be eligible for Section 504 services, a student must have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities
Physical or Mental Impairment
An impairment is defined as “Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine or any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities.”
A major life activity includes functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working. (ADAA 2008) This non-exhaustive list also includes eating, sleeping, lifting, standing, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating.
An impairment is considered a disability under Rehabilitation Act only if it substantially limits such an activity. This is a relative threshold that is based on the extent to which an individual’s activities are restricted in terms of the conditions, manner or duration under which they can be performed as compared to most people. In a school setting, a student’s limitation is assessed according to how their ability or performance compares to that of an average student and/or district standards.
The decision of whether an impairment “substantially limits” a major life activity for a student must be made on an individual basis. Committee members will use a variety of data sources, such as achievement indicators, functional assessments, aptitude tests, physical condition, adaptive behaviors and teacher recommendations to assess whether determine whether a student has a “substantial limitation”.
Committee members may use the following scale to characterize the extent of the student’s impairment:
Student appears to be experiencing some challenges or behaviors associated with their diagnosed condition, but these do not create a limitation for the student
Student is experiencing some challenges or behaviors associated with their condition; parents and teachers are providing support as needed; the level of support provided is comparable to many grade level peers.
Student is experiencing several challenges or behaviors associated with their condition; parents and teachers are providing support on a regular basis, more than which is provided to many peers.
Student is experiencing numerous challenges and behaviors associated with their condition; parents and teachers are providing consistent support on a daily basis; support provided is critical to the students academic opportunity.