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For those who aren't familiar with it, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("504" for short) is the U.S. law that protects the civil rights of students with disabilities at institutions that receive federal funds for any part of their budget.

Section 504 is important in its own right, and it was also an important towards passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 504 spelled the beginning of the end of "separate but equal" for people with disabilities.

Who is protected under 504? "Any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks."

For a fascinating and inspiring account of the history of 504, see the article Short History of the 504 Sit-In and the video Power of 504.

504 is made up of two parts -- a law ("No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance") and a set of regulations.

Question: What is the equivalent of Section 504 in non-U.S. parts of the world?

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Discrimination based on genetic features and disability (among others) is prohibited in European Union primary law by Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (OJ 2012 C 326/391). This is naturally a negative obligation to the Union and Member States.

Basis for positive action in the area are in Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (OJ 2012 C 326/47), where an unanimous Council is bestowed with powers to take 'appropriate action' (hence including introducing legislation) to combat discrimination. Majorities of the Parliament and the Council can together introduce measures lesser than harmonisation of the Member States' laws in support of achieving the objective.

These provisions naturally are only applicable where Union law is applicable, but discussing that would take focus away from the question you asked. :-)

You should also consult the Commission's page on Persons with disabilities (there's an ongoing public consultation on these issues): http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1137&langId=en

  • Could you provide a link to the reference in your first paragraph, please? Also, isn't there something more specific for the educational realm? – aparente001 Sep 27 '16 at 14:05
  • You can find the Article in the newest publication of the Charter in the Official Journal. I'm sure there's something more specific in the educational realm as well. – L. Batavan Sep 29 '16 at 11:59
  • Well, that was what I was trying to ask in the OP. "What protections exist in the European Union against discrimination in an educational institution?" – aparente001 Sep 29 '16 at 16:00

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