If your child does not qualified for services under the IDEA, they still might be entitled to some benefits found in the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  504 plans are a mechanism to provide accommodations and some related services to students who might not be in need of specialized instruction to access their education.  Schools do not receive any extra federal funding for students who have 504 plans.  Anything can be an accommodation from needing extra time on a test to being allowed to chew gum so that a student can focus in class.  Other examples including sitting close to the board or having a student note taker.  The only time a reasonable accommodation can be denied is if (1) it fundamentally alters the program OR (2) it creates a financial hardship.  It is very difficult for a school district to argue that an accommodation would create a financial hardship.  The courts look at the entire assets of the school district, not just the individual school itself.  A “fundamental alteration” is a change that is so significant that it alters the essential nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations offered.  This is also difficult for the school district to argue successfully.  Any reasonable request should be granted.

What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?  The differences are significant.  The most important difference is that the IDEA does not apply to 504 plans which means none of the procedural safeguards apply to a 504 plan.  There is no requirement that a student first have a 504 plan before having an IEP.

IEP vs. 504 Plan


  • School/District receives additional federal funding
  • Student receives specialized instruction
  • Provides reasonable accommodations
  • Provides all related services
  • Procedural Safeguards
  • Enforcement available under the IDEA, ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • McKay funding is based upon the individual matrix of the student

504 Plan

  • Provides reasonable accommodations
  • Can provide some related type services
  • Enforcement available under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • McKay funding is a flat rate and the same for each student