Education Department to update law for students with disabilities
Education Department to update law for students with disabilities

Bianca Quilantan

“While the world has undergone enormous changes since 1977, the Department’s Section 504 regulations have remained, with few exceptions, unaltered,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Education Department on Friday announced plans to update a federal law that mandates how schools and colleges must accommodate students with disabilities.

This would be the first update in 45 years to the regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, according to the department. The Department's Office for Civil Rights will be gathering public input on possible amendments to the regulations starting this month.

“While the world has undergone enormous changes since 1977, the Department’s Section 504 regulations have remained, with few exceptions, unaltered,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, in a statement. “As we observe the 45th anniversary of these important regulations this month, it is time to start the process of updating them.”

More context: Section 504 prohibits disability-based discrimination in public and private programs and activities that receive federal funds. It requires schools accommodate students with disabilities by giving them more time on tests, preferred seating arrangements and aids to help them learn, among other support.

The department said its review of the regulation was sparked by President Joe Biden’s Unity Agenda, which looks to address mental health.

What’s next: Public comments can be submitted to the department, and the agency says it will hold listening sessions in the coming months.