A. What is a Physical or Mental Impairment?

Section 504 defines a physical impairment as:

• any physiological disorder or condition,

• cosmetic disfigurement, or

• anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine.

A mental impairment includes:

• any mental or psychological disorder, such as, but not limited to: mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities.

Given the difficulty of providing a comprehensive list, the above does not include all diseases or conditions that could qualify for physical or mental impairments.

Please also see the Section below regarding ADHD.

No medical diagnosis is required to satisfy the requirement of a physical or mental impairment. However, all sources of information, including information provided by parents and the student’s medical and private providers, are helpful, and parents may be asked to share such information for consideration by the 504 team.

B. What is a Major Life Activity?

Major life activities include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing speaking, breathing learning and working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating.

Congress also provided a list of “major bodily functions” that are considered major life activities: immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.

These lists are not exhaustive and there could be other major life activities not listed above. For the 504 teams, it is important that the 504 team not only consider learning as a major life activity. Any relevant major life activity should be considered.


C. What is Substantial Limitation?

Substantial Limitation is not clearly defined in the law. It must be made on a case by case basis, considering each individual student. No single scale or formula can be used to determine substantial limitation. In determining the existence of a substantial limitation, compare the functioning of the student with the impairment to the functioning of the average student of the same age or grade in the general population.