The term “section 504” refers to a section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This federal law states that no person “…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” (Sec. 504 (a)).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, when applied to schools, basically says that the school cannot deny participation in or enjoyment of benefits offered by the public school programs because of a child’s disability. The district must comply with this or jeopardize their receipt of federal funding. The 504 plan did very little to direct schools as to “how” to comply with this mandate. Thus the need for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which was later passed.