According to provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, colleges and universities receiving federal funding must offer equal access and accommodation to applicants with disabilities. A 504 Plan outlines the specific accommodations a student needs to perform at a level equal to non-disabled students. Section 504 issues affect several aspects of the college entrance process, including eligibility requirements, admissions testing, disclosure of disabilities, and request for accommodation.
Admission and Eligibility
According to LD Online, colleges and universities receiving federal monies cannot establish admissions policies or eligibility requirements that deny access on the basis of disability, if a student meets the school’s minimum requirements for admission. Any agency or college department that administers entrance exams must provide accommodations for disabled applicants who request them. Prospective students may benefit from discussing their applications with the school’s disability resources center to clarify the standards and how they are applied to disabled applicants.
Disclosure of Disability
Although public K-12 schools are obliged to identify and evaluate students who may have disabilities, colleges and universities are not. Schools covered under Section 504 cannot legally require students to disclose any kind of disabilities past or present, including a history of mental illness, on college applications. Choosing to disclose a disability of any kind is up to the prospective student, and if a student opts not to do this, the school cannot make that determination on the student's behalf. Disclosure is only necessary when a student is requesting disability-based accommodations as described in a 504 plan or similar documentation.
If a student discloses a disability and requests accommodation, the college may legally request documentation of the disability and the accommodations needed. Once the need for services is established, schools covered under Section 504 are obliged to make reasonable efforts to provide them. The 504 plan can assist the school’s disability resource center to establish what services are needed to achieve parity with non disabled students.