Section 504 Comparison to IDEA
Individuals who are disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) are also protected under Section 504/ADA. While Section 504 provides for services similar to those available through special education, the intent and requirements of the acts are different. IDEA is a mandate to provide special education and related services to students who meet specific eligibility criteria for one or more of 13 categories of disability and need special education and related services.
Section 504, while intended to be consistent with the IDEA, provides broader and different coverage than does the IDEA with a focus on providing equal opportunity to all students through “reasonable accommodations”. The Section 504 definition of an individual with a disability is broader, including any person whose physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities, including, but not limited to, learning, thinking, concentrating and reading. Most if not all children and young adults who receive special education and related services under the IDEA are also considered qualified individuals with disabilities under Section 504. However, all individuals who qualify for 504 services may not qualify for special education under IDEA. It is important to note that Section 504 is not a consolation prize for students who do not meet the eligibility requirements of IDEA.
IDEA identifies as eligible only children and young adults who have specific types of disabilities and who, as a result, need special education and related services in order to access and make progress in the general school curriculum.