Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a handicap in the United States shall, solely by reason of her or his handicap, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal assistance.”
Purpose. The purpose of Section 504 is to “level the playing field” to eliminate impediments to full participation by persons with disabilities. In legal terms, the statue was intended to prevent intentional or unintentional discrimination against persons with disabilities, persons who are believed to have disabilities, and persons with a record or history of disabilities. In addition, it provides for protection from discrimination for family members of persons with disabilities.
Eligibility. To fall under the protection of Section 504, a person must have physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; have a record of such an impairment; or be regarded as having such an impairment.
It is important to remember the three conditions that lead to eligibility for protection under Section 504.
1. The presence of a physical or mental impairment…
2. which substantially limits…
3. one or more major life activities.
It should be noted that none of these three components has been defined in the law. Also, the 2008 ADA Amendments call for broader interpretation of these, favoring eligibility.