How to Qualify for and Obtain a 504 Plan for IBS

If you or your child is struggling with the demands of school due to IBS, it may be helpful to inquire about obtaining a 504 plan.

Student talking with counselor
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What Is a 504 Plan?

A 504 plan is a document drawn up by an educational institution that outlines any necessary accommodations and modifications needed in order for a student with a disability to receive the same educational benefits as their non-disabled peers.

The plan receives its name from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which was enacted to protect disabled individuals from discrimination. Section 504 applies to any employer or organization that receives federal financial assistance and thus applies to any educational program or institution that receives funds from the U.S. Department of Education. Most schools and university settings are required to comply with this law.

Who Is Covered?

Section 504 offers protection to disabled individuals in a manner consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To qualify, individuals must suffer from a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Similar to the ADA, a person is covered under Section 504 if they have a history of, or are regarded as having such an impairment. In this way, the episodic nature of IBS symptoms will not preclude a person from being covered by Section 504.

Does a 504 Plan Require a Special Education Label?

The 504 plan does not involve special education services. Special education falls under a different law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and requires the use of an IEP, which stands for Individualized Education Plan.

How Do You Obtain a 504 Plan?

In order to obtain a 504 plan, one must contact school authorities to determine which staff member coordinates such plans. You will be required to show medical evidence of an IBS diagnosis and identify the areas in which IBS is interfering with the ability to manage the demands of school.

What Accommodations Can Be Made?

Modifications and accommodations will be determined by the student's individual needs. Here are some possible modifications specific to the challenges of IBS:

  • The student will be given a bathroom pass to be used at will.
  • The student will have access to bathrooms that are closest to their classrooms. This may include the use of the nurse's bathroom or staff bathrooms. If necessary, the student would be given a key to any bathrooms that are kept locked.
  • If anxiety triggers IBS symptoms, modifications may be made so that the student can space out the frequency of tests and special projects.
  • Class schedules can be modified if the student needs a later school start time due to morning symptoms.
  • The school will assist with missed assignments should the student be absent due to IBS flare-ups.
  • The school will provide home tutoring or instruction if the student's symptoms prevent them from attending class.
  • The student can be absent, late, or leave school early as necessary and without penalty.

Where Would One File a Complaint?

Complaints regarding discrimination under Section 504 are handled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR). To contact the OCR:

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  1. U.S. Department of Labor. Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

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