I-3-0-88.Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Last Update: 9/2/14 (Transmittal I-3-75)

A. Background

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Federal agencies and organizations that receive Federal financial assistance are required to ensure that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability is, solely by reason of his or her disability, excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under the programs and activities they conduct.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will provide accommodations that give qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to obtain a comparable result, gain a comparable benefit, or reach a comparable level of achievement in a program or activity as a nondisabled individual. However, when SSA provides an accommodation, it does not mean that the accommodation will produce the identical result or level of achievement for all individuals.

For further information and background about Section 504 and available accommodations, see Program Operations Manual System GN 00211.001

NOTE:

A decision to recognize a person as a "qualified individual with a disability" and to provide an accommodation for that person (when requested) does not insinuate or constitute an allowance for Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments, or acknowledgment of disability for administering Social Security programs.

B. Accommodations

1. Providing accommodations to members of the public

We presume that individuals with disabilities are capable of conducting business with SSA without an accommodation unless they request an accommodation. When a member of the public who has a disability informs us that he or she requires an accommodation, we will make every reasonable effort to meet that need. In determining what accommodation to provide an individual, SSA will consider his or her request unless a more effective accommodation exists.

Individuals may request one or more accommodations. To request an accommodation, an individual may:

  • Call SSA's National 800 Number

  • Visit a local field office or hearing office;

  • Contact, either by telephone or in writing, the office where he or she proposes to receive the accommodation;

  • Request notices in an alternate format through ssa.gov using the current internet Special Notice Options (SNO) process for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

NOTE:

For additional information about the SNO process, see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) I-3-1-70 and I-4-0-40.

2. Standard Accommodations

Standard accommodations do not require special handling or approval by a manager. However, the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) is unique from other agency components as it generally does not have in person contact with the public and, therefore, is not usually equipped to immediately provide SSA's standard accommodations. However, in the rare event a member of the public does request a standard accommodation from OAO, OAO staff will review the hearing level procedures outlined in HALLEX I-2-0-8 B and C and, whenever possible, provide the accommodation.

When a standard accommodation is inadequate or is not possible, OAO staff will offer alternative service options such as eServices or contacting the National 800 Number.

3. Non-Standard Accommodations

When a standard accommodation is insufficient to provide meaningful access, the individual has the option to request a different, non-standard accommodation. A non-standard accommodation is one that SSA does not routinely provide. OAO employees must consult with management on non-standard accommodation requests.

C. Documenting Accommodation Requests

1. iAccommodate

iAccommodate is an intranet application used to record and report accommodation requests (including standard accommodations and SNO) and, when applicable, to refer non-standard accommodation requests to the Center for Section 504 Compliance (Center).

2. Handling New Requests for Accommodation

OAO employees will follow the process set forth in HALLEX I-2-0-8 C to document requested standard and non-standard accommodations. Staff will document all claimant requests for recurring or future accommodations in the remarks section of a claimant's record in the Appeals Review Processing System (ARPS).

3. Referrals to the Center for Section 504 Compliance

When it is necessary to refer an accommodation request to the Center for Section 504 Compliance through iAccommodate, the Center will review the individual's circumstances and the requested accommodation to determine how the agency can accommodate the individual. The Center will work through the OAO Executive Director's Office (EDO) to gather additional information when necessary. The Center's goal is to make a determination within two weeks; however, complex requests may take up to six weeks. The EDO will notify the referring branch of the Center's determination. The Center will also provide written notice of its determination to the individual who requested the accommodation. The Center can also assist offices in obtaining accommodations they determine the agency should provide.

D. Filing a Complaint

Individuals have the right to file a complaint of discrimination against SSA based on disability. Individuals may file a complaint using Form SSA-437 (Discrimination Complaint Form) or by writing a letter that includes the information requested in the form. Individuals must mail the signed form or letter to the:

Social Security Administration
Civil Rights Complaint Adjudication Office
6401 Security Boulevard
Room 617 Altmeyer Building
Baltimore, MD 21235