The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly known in the schools as "Section 504," is a federal law passed by the United States Congress with the purpose of prohibiting discrimination against disabled persons who may participate in, or receive benefits from, programs receiving federal financial assistance. In the public schools specifically, §504 applies to ensure that eligible disabled students are provided with educational benefits and opportunities equal to those provided to non-disabled students.
Under §504, a student is considered "disabled" if he or she suffers from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities, such as learning, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, working, and performing manual tasks. Section 504 also applies to students with a record of having a substantially-limiting impairment, or who are regarded as being disabled even if they are truly not disabled. Students can be considered disabled, and can receive services under §504, even if they do not qualify for, or receive, special education services.