Forty-five years after publication of the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the landmark disability civil rights law, the U.S. Department of Education announced plans to gather public input on possible amendments to those regulations to strengthen and protect the rights of students with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public and private programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including schools and postsecondary institutions.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights will solicit public comments to help decide how best to improve regulations to assist America’s students with disabilities. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, as part of the President’s Unity Agenda, President Joe Biden announced a strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis. The work that OCR will do this month to listen to and solicit public input regarding improvements to the department’s disability rights regulations will include input from those people with disabilities who also have mental health needs and their advocates.

“While the world has undergone enormous changes since 1977, the department’s Section 504 regulations have remained, with few exceptions, unaltered,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “As we observe the 45th anniversary of these important regulations this month, it is time to start the process of updating them. Just as in 1977, the voices of people with disabilities must be heard and incorporated as we engage in that work.”

As part of the development of the proposed amendments to the Section 504 regulations, the department is soliciting public input. Interested parties may submit comments. The department will also hold listening sessions in the coming months.

Any comments received may be made available to the public, so commenters should avoid including any personal information that they want to keep confidential. In addition, the department intends to rely on prior feedback received in response to an earlier request for information regarding the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline, and other information, to decide what changes would be most appropriate to include in a notice of proposed rulemaking.