Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) of 1973

This was the first law to deal with the programs and activities of Federal agencies. Before 1973 is a person had a disability they could be denied participation in a program or activity just because they had a disability.

After the passage of this law, any person who meets the eligibility criteria, which are the rules and requirements everyone participating must follow, must be allowed to participate. A person can’t be denied just because they have a disability unless their participation would fundamentally alter that program or activity

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. Section 794)

Section 504 states: 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 under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency.

Section 504 directs each Federal agency develop its own set of regulations to implement Section 504 in the programs that agency conducts, permits to operate under its authority or funds. The USDA regulations implementing Section 504 are 7 CFR 15e for programs and activities conducted by a USDA agency, and 7 CFR 15b for programs and activities conducted by any entity operating under a permit from or receiving funding from any USDA agency.

--    A “qualified person with the disability” must be able“to achieve the purpose of the program or activity without modification to the program or activity that fundamentally alters the nature of that program or activity”.

      (29 U.S.C. 794 and 7 CFR 15e.103).

  

--      An "individual with a disability" is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities”.

      Examples of major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.  Major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

      (ADA (42 U.S.C. 12102). This definition is also applicable to Section 504 per the ADA          Amendment Act of 2008.