Section 504 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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 because of disability, excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under the programs and activities they conduct.

Under Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973, qualified members of the public who have disabilities that prevent them from having meaningful access to a Social Security Administration (SSA) program, may request accommodations that will enable them to participate in or derive the benefits of that program.

We are required to provide accommodations that afford qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement in our programs and activities, as an individual without disabilities.

We are not required to provide accommodations needed to produce an identical result, benefit, or level of achievement for individuals who are disabled and nondisabled.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is different from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990. Both laws prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities, however, there are some fundamental differences.

The Rehabilitation Act applies to:

  • Federal Agencies
  • Entities receiving Federal Financial Assistance

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to:

  • State and Local Governments
  • Public Accommodations
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications
  • The U.S. Congress

NOTE: A decision to provide a requested accommodation for an individual based on the individual's disability does not constitute an allowance for Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments, or acknowledgment of disability for administering Social Security programs.

Under Section 504, agencies must provide individuals with disabilities meaningful access to their programs, activities, and facilities. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to make electronic and information technology they use, maintain, develop, or procure accessible to individuals with disabilities. If making the electronic and information technology accessible would impose an undue burden on us, we will provide individuals with disabilities the information and data in another way.

Section 508 is one method of ensuring Section 504 compliance. We conduct much of our business using technology, and our comprehensive Section 508 program helps us design and evaluate technology for accessibility.

You can find 45 C.F.R. 85.11 at this link: 45 C.F.R. Part 85

We presume that individuals with disabilities are capable of doing business with us without an accommodation unless they request an accommodation. When a member of the public has a disability that prevents or limits his or her ability to participate in an agency program or activity and requires an accommodation that will enable participation, we will make every effort to meet that need. Individuals may request one or more accommodations. To request an accommodation, individuals may:

  • Call our National 800 Number
  • Visit their local field office or hearing office
  • Call a field office or hearing office where they want to receive the accommodation
  • Write to a field office or hearing office where they want to receive the accommodation

Individuals who are blind or visually impaired may also go online to ask us to send benefit notices in an alternate format through using the current internet Special Notice Options (SNO) process.

SSA established a discrimination complaint process to allow members of the public to file a complaint if they believe the agency has violated their rights under Section 504 (or discriminated against them based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, or retaliation). The agency conducts an investigation into each complaint and issues a letter of findings to the complainant.

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

Social Security Administration
Attn: Civil Rights Complaints
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235

NOTE: Individuals may file a complaint using the SSA-437 English version or the SSA-437 Spanish version.

In addition to assisting our offices, Section 504 staff is available to assist advocates, the public, and other agencies through our Toll-Free Number, 1-844-881-9061. Our business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (except Federal holidays).