A proposed rule update could bring clarity to how Section 504 accommodations for students with disabilities aligns with the better-understood civil rights protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The new proposal is expected to be issued in August by the U.S. Department of Education, according to a federal announcement.
Regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 have remained largely unchanged for nearly 50 years, and the update is expected to provide needed guidance for K-12 districts and colleges.
The announcement said the proposed regulations would address barriers to educational access for students with disabilities, update outdated language and align with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and IDEA that protect the rights of people with disabilities.
In FY 2022, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights received 6,467 complaints regarding Section 504 and ADA Title II issues. It resolved 5,187 of those complaints, according to an OCR annual report. Most of the complaints (3,363) centered on issues around free appropriate public education.
The Education Department said a year ago it was planning to review the Section 504 regulations and began with an informal request for public comments. The agency also held listening sessions and will incorporate this feedback into the proposed rules, according to the OCR annual report.
Commenting on the issue last year, disability rights advocates and school administrators agreed on the importance of Section 504 but differed on how to update the regulations.
Disability rights advocacy organizations recommended more cohesion between Section 504 and IDEA to help protect the rights of students with disabilities. School administrative groups, on the other hand, asked for distinct separation between the two to improve understanding and implementation by educators and families.