Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 nor the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are meant to aid in the removal of physical, attitudinal, and programmatic barriers to services and education for individuals with disabilities. Neither legislative act is meant to protect individuals with disabilities from the consequences of their behavior or to make available to them programs and services for which they are not otherwise qualified. 

Differences Between High School and College:


High School College

 Legal Rights:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act


School districts are responsible for identifying, evaluating, and planning educational services for students with disabilities at no expense

It is the student’s responsibility to self-identify their disability and need for academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids and services to the Office of Disability Resources


School districts develop a document called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan that must be followed once the effects of a student’s disability have been evaluated and documented

Students initiate request for adjustments and services  by meeting with Disability Resources. Students are responsible for obtaining and providing disability documentation from a qualified professional to the Office of Disability Resources


 The school may modify academic standards for students with disabilities. Examples include modified homework or changes in test formats

Students with disabilities are expected to meet or exceed academic standards. Academic adjustments do not alter the essential content or requirements of a course or program.

Academic adjustments are designed to provide an equal opportunity for academic success

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Assurance of equal educational opportunity rests upon legal foundations established by federal law, specifically the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 including Section 504. It states in part that “No otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities in the United States…shall solely by reason of 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.” Section 504 [29 USC 794] Sec 504

By federal law, a person with a disability is any person who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment;
  • has a record of such impairment; or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities such as self-care, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing or learning.

Section 504 Implementing Regulations [34 CFR Part 104.44(a)]

“A recipient to which this subpart applies shall make such modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to insure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of handicap, against a qualified handicapped applicant or student. Academic requirements that the recipient can demonstrate are essential to the program of instruction being pursued by such student…will not be regarded as discriminatory within the meaning of this section.”

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) upholds and extends the standards for compliance set forth in Section 504. It is civil rights legislation, which provides a clear mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Specifically, it guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five parts:

  • Title I: Covers nondiscrimination in employment activities.
  • Title II: Subpart A requires that state and local government entities and programs be made accessible. Subpart B covers transportation and requires that public transportation systems be made fully accessible and usable.
  • Title III: Covers the accessibility and availability of programs, goods and services provided by private entities.
  • Title IV: Requires telecommunication services be made accessible to persons with speech and hearing impairments and has specific reference to the development of telecommunication relay systems and closed captioning technology.
  • Title V: Contains miscellaneous provisions that apply to all of the other titles as well.

Title II of ADA Regulations [28 CFR 35.130(b)(7)]

“A public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity.”