Smiling child

Health Impairments Accommodations within School

A Guide to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act

What are Health Impairments?
Health Impairments can be a category of disability for people with health-related conditions which impose limitations to one or more major life function. This can include limitations to learning due to health related disability or the inability to participate in school-related activities due to the health condition. Many students who have health impairments may need accommodations or modifications to help them through the school day. Disabilities are very individual and eligibility for services must be determined on an individual basis.

Some health conditions which may have impairments that require accommodations include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma and other respiratory diseases
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Arthritis
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Hemophilia
  • Fibromayalgia

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 is an equal rights law for people with disabilities. Section 504 pertains to public institutions that receive federal funding, such as public schools systems. To qualify for services under Section 504 and individual must have a disability that interferes with one or more life functions such as: caring for ones self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Section 504 is focused on providing accommodations to ensure equal access to school related programs and activities.

Many students with health impairments require accommodations to allow for equal access to school related programs and activities, both academic and non-academic. To find out if the student meets eligibility for Section 504 contact the school’s Section 504 representative and request an evaluation. Make requests in writing and keep a copy for family records.

What is a 504 plan for accommodation?
A 504 plan for accommodation is developed and written if the student meets eligibility criteria under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The plan is a written document describing the types of accommodations and who will execute them so the student will have equal access to school related programs and activities. The accommodations within the plan are developed for the individual student and his/her specific needs. When writing a 504 plan discuss in-classroom accommodations, and non-academic accommodations if necessary.

Accommodating Health-Related Impairments
Accommodations give the student with a disability the opportunity to participate equally with non-disabled peers. For students with health impairments such accommodations may include:

  • medications kept at school
  • rest times through the school day
  • a reduction in work load to lessen fatigue
  • assistive technology
  • ergonomic work stations
  • two sets of books (one at school and one at home)
  • note takers
  • scribe
  • trained aides to assist with medical-related needs such as g-tube feedings, toileting, wheelchair transfers, etc.

Historically, school districts have been responsible for proving accommodations which the student requires in order to maintain attendance at school. For example, if a student requires catheterization during the day, the school may be required to provide nursing assistance to provide that services so that the student can remain in school during the day. However, services which are strictly medical in nature and must be provided by a physician than the school district may not be the responsible party.

Non-Academic Activities
As mentioned earlier, 504 plans are to provide equal access to programs funded with federal dollars to people with disabilities, this includes ALL school sponsored activities and events such as:

  • assemblies
  • plays
  • talent shows
  • student government
  • clubs
  • the lunchroom
  • playgrounds
  • the library

504 plans should look at all aspects of student life. They should address any non-classroom activity the student may want to be involved with. An accommodation maybe very simple or maybe more complex based on individual need, but are necessary to provide access as guaranteed by law.

Prepared for Parents & Guardians
by Jacqueline M. Wells

This document was funded in part from a grant from WisTech to the Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy through the National Institute of Disability Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR); U.S. Dept. of Education. Fall 1998.


  1. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act PL 94-142
  2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  3. Ruesch, Gary, M., eds. Special Education Law and Practice: A Manual for the Special Education Practitioner. Harshman, PA.: LRP Publishing, 1996.