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As the parent of a child with special needs, you are probably familiar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA, as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Although there is a relationship between the two statutes, they have different objectives. Section 504 is intended to eliminate barriers that exclude persons with disabilities or, in other words, to create a level playing field. This federal law is designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504, in part, reads: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination.”

Section 504 is meant to eliminate hurdles, whereas IDEA is meant to give children with special needs the services they require to succeed in school. Some describe its motives as being similar to affirmative action. It goes beyond granting equal access to students with disabilities by also providing additional special education services and procedural safeguards.

IDEA entitles a child suspected of having a disability to a comprehensive evaluation by a multi-disciplinary team provided at no cost to parents. If the child is determined to need special education and related services, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be implemented, based on the specific needs of the child as decided by the team, including parents.

If you are a parent who suspects that your child is not being treated in accordance with Section 504 and/or IDEA, contact an attorney with experience in special needs issues.

To learn more about New York special education advocacy, New York special needs planning, or New York estate planning, visit http://www.littmankrooks.com/special-education-advocacy/.