All students are expected to perform equally in classroom and curricular activities.
Also, regardless of their physical differences, gender, or age, teachers and parents are expected to treat their students equally and allow them access to fair learning materials.
Unfortunately, students with disabilities often face challenges when demonstrating their learning capabilities, which interfere with their success.
To help their disabled students succeed in class and other physical activities, teachers, parents, or school psychologists need to design special settings that allow such students to overcome barriers and experience equal learning opportunities.
Although these new settings can be designed to suit individual needs, they should also be agreed upon by all concerned parties and approved by relevant bodies to ensure they do not violate a child’s safety.
This is where the 504 accommodation plan comes in handy.
So, what is a 504 accommodation plan?
Here is an overview of the 504 plan and potential accommodations that can help physically, mentally, or visually disabled students.
What is 504 Accommodation Plan?
Simply put, a 504 accommodation plan is an individualized document or technique designed to help students with disorders or disabilities access equal and better learning opportunities.
The plan is created by a joint team of teachers, school psychologists, and parents after assessing the student’s needs and agreeing on strategies to help them overcome the challenges.
Also, unlike modifications that alter the work content, an accommodation plan alters the educational or environmental settings but does not change the content of the work done by students.
The 504 plan is derived from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The act primarily prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities and ensures such students can access free learning opportunities that suit their special needs.
However, for any student to qualify for the 504 accommodation plan, they should have approved disabilities that hinder their daily activities like self-care, hearing, speaking, seeing, learning, walking, or breathing.
Examples of 504 Accommodations
Generally, 504 accommodations, also called supports, are designed to allow students to complete the same tasks with their peers, though they have variations in time, format, and presentation.
However, when creating the accommodation plan, the 504 team is advised to consider the school configuration, the student’s age, and individualized special needs to come up with the best accommodation that ensures a common competitive ground.
That means that when designing a 504 accommodation plan, they need to categorize it into two primary groups:
- General accommodations
- Accommodations based on a specific disability.
Here are a few examples of each group.
1. Examples of General 504 Accommodations
These accommodations work by bringing all students (disabled and non-disabled) to the same starting point.
They also compensate disabled students for their limitations and allow them to experience equal learning and playing opportunities. They include:
- Keep the learning environment clear of unrelated materials and quiet during intense learning times.
- Reduce visual distractions.
- Seat the student close to the teacher or a role model.
- Provide extra study carrels to make the student not feel singled out.
- Keep extra learning materials on hand.
- Provide additional space between desks.
- Provide headsets to block noise.
- Allow the student to leave the classroom 2-3 minutes earlier to reduce crowding.
- Allow the use of assistive technology.
- Set time expectations for assignments.
- Highlight the main ideas and supporting details in the book.
- Provide computer-aided instructions and other audiovisual assistance.
- Tailor homework.
- Provide segmented tests to allow students to finish one test before entering the next session.
- Provide written versions of daily activities.
- Limit visual distractions.
- Provide “to-do” lists.
- Utilize positive reinforcements and reward behavioral changes.
- Implement self-recording, especially after confirming with students’ parents and teachers.
- Establish regular progress reports for students.
- Establish a communication system for behavior monitoring.
- Post rules and consequences for certain behaviors.
- Establish a “safe place” for students under high stress.
- Allow sensory or fidget objects for students’ self-regulation.
- Provide tape lessons so that students can listen to them.
- Give oral and written instructions for assignments.
- Prioritize fewer relevant drill and practice activities.
- Provide photocopied materials for extra practice.
- Ask students to repeat or paraphrase the context to check their understanding.
- Provide one-on-one adult tutoring.
- Emphasize the use of compensatory strategies such as pencil grip, mnemonic devices, and spell checkers.
- Identify student’s preferred learning styles and provide individualized instruction materials.
- Provide before and after lessons for important concepts.
- Vary the presentation method using multi-sensory techniques like peer or cross-age tutoring, group presentation, audiovisual assistance, demonstrations, games, and experiments.
- Allow students to take tests in quiet or ample spaces.
- Allow students to take tests in small groups.
- Allow lined answer spaces for short or easy answer questions.
- Provide study guides for tests.
- Allow students to study with peer tutors before taking tests.
- Provide parents or guardians with information about the upcoming tests and the content of the questions.
- Reduce paper and pencil tasks.
- Supplement written directions with oral directions.
- Evaluate weights of tests when grading.
- Provide copies of test tools and allow for color-coding or highlighting.
- Provide a sample or practice test.
2. Examples of 504 Accommodations for Specific Disabilities
Students with specific disabilities may also need special accommodations or services that allow them to benefit from learning programs.
Although some of these accommodations may fall under general supports, they help students overcome obstacles caused by their specific conditions and engage in school activities like non-disabled students.
However, for students to qualify for these accommodations, their disabilities must significantly limit one or more of their daily activities.
That means a student with a specific condition may not be compensated with the 504 plan if they can perform their tasks comfortably.
Examples of 504 accommodations for specific disabilities include:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Use simple and concise instructions with well-explained steps.
- Provide stress and fatigue monitors and adjust stressful activities.
- Tolerate or understand the need for excessive movement.
- Seat the student away from physical distractions and close to the teacher or role model.
- Train for proper dispensing of medications.
- Supervise transitions, disruptions, and field activities.
- Provide prompt feedback on success and areas that need improvement.
- Provide environmental adaptations to avoid disruptions.
- Provide socialization opportunities such as friendship.
- Break down assignments into smaller and manageable sections with clear instructions.
- Start with difficult activities and lessons when the student is most alert.
- Implement a crisis intervention plan to prevent students from doing something impulsive or dangerous when in an extreme condition.
- Report any suicidal comments to the school counselor immediately.
- Plan advanced transition plans.
- Create awareness of potential victimization from other students.
- Create home instructions when the student’s condition is out of control and they cannot attend school.
- Provide assistive technology devices such as wheelchairs.
- Allow extra time between lessons.
- Initiate a health care program that addresses emergencies.
- Allow easy access to school facilities such as bathrooms, water fountains, and playgrounds.
- Initiate appropriate physical therapies that relate to life skills.
Chronic infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDS
- Provide rest periods.
- Implement routine communication with health professionals.
- Provide links between home and classroom through computers or assistive technology devices.
- Arrange for group participation and support.
- Tape books or provide personal readers.
- Provide extra learning materials in extreme situations.
- Arrange for peer or cross-age tutoring at home or school.
- Provide staff training on confidentiality.
- Recognize the need for private relaxation or medical attendance.
Drug addiction and alcoholism
- Arrange for at-school and out-of-school treatment.
- Establish peer and adult support groups.
- Arrange for periodic home-school contacts.
- Integrate a student’s assistance program into class activities.
- Initiate periodic assignments monitoring system.
Diagnosis of obesity, anorexia, or bulimia
- Adapt the physical learning program with recommendations from the physician.
- Provide special seating or furniture.
- Provide elevator privileges as recommended by the physician.
- Provide students with opportunities to participate in intramural and extra-curricular activities.
- Change class locations to make them easily accessible.
- Provide socialization and peer counseling opportunities.
- Allow extra time to attend lessons.
Disclaimer: The above examples are not regarded as the final checklist or all-inclusive accommodations. When creating a 504 plan, the involved team should consider each student’s specific needs that qualify for the 504 compensation, the school’s setup, and recommendations from the health professionals. They should also ensure the accommodations do not interfere with non-disabled students’ learning capabilities.