Guidelines for documenting a disability
Students seeking accommodations through the Office of Disability Services are required to submit documentation to verify eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Protection under these civil rights statutes is determined on a case-by-case basis and is based upon documentation of a current disability that substantially limits a major life activity.
To ensure accommodation in a timely manner, it is advised that students send documentation of an existing disability to the Coordinator of Disability Services no later than July 1 for the fall semester or no later than December 1 for the spring semester.
The following guidelines are provided to assure that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and to support requests for reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids. Please see below for additional guidelines regarding learning disabilities.
- Testing must be current. A student seeking accommodations must provide current documentation (no more than four years old) for a condition which can change over time or which responds to medication. A student seeking accommodation for a condition that does not change over time is encouraged to provide current documentation of his/her condition, however, re-testing may not be medically necessary to evaluate the student’s disability. It is advised that students consult the Coordinator of Disability Services for clarification. Because the provision of reasonable accommodations and services is based upon assessment of the current impact of the student’s disabilities on his/her academic functioning, it is in a student’s best interest to provide recent and appropriate documentation.
- Testing should provide clear and specific evidence and identification of a disability.
- Documentation should address the impact of the disability on an individual’s functioning within the context of the academic and vocational environment. Comprehensive assessment should include consideration of the following (as relevant to the nature of the student’s disability): physical capacity, neurological functioning, cognitive and psychological/emotional functioning. It is recognized that the type of documentation will differ depending upon the disability. Evaluation of psychological/emotional functioning must be in accordance with DSM-IV-TR criteria.Specific areas of evaluation include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Fine & Gross Motor Skills
- Balance & Postural Control
- Sensory Registration & Processing
- Visual Perception
- Use of Supports
- Mood & Affect
- Organizational Skills
- Problem Solving
- Coping Skills
- Evaluation results and interpretation of results is required.
- Documentation must be submitted by a qualified practitioner. Trained, certified and/or licensed physicians, psychologists, learning disabilities specialists, occupational, physical, or speech-language pathologists, and other professionals are representative of clinicians involved in the process of assessment. Diagnostic reports must include the names, titles, and professional credentials of the evaluators as well as the date(s) of testing.
- Include specific recommendations for accommodations. Any recommendation for accommodation should be based on objective evidence of a substantial limitation to learning as supported by specific test results or clinical observations. Reports should establish the rationale for any accommodation that is recommended, using test data to document the need.
- A description of any accommodation and/or auxiliary aid that has been used in high school or at another institution should be discussed. Include information about the specific conditions under which the accommodation was used (e.g., standardized testing, final exams) and whether or not it was beneficial for the student.
- A summary of relevant background information (e.g., educational, medical, and social history) should be provided.
- Please Note: Individualized Education/Transition Plans (IEP’s/ITP’s) are useful, but are not always in and of themselves sufficient documentation to establish the rationale for accommodations.
- Students with a temporary disability, which affects them in classes, must provide medical documentation on a term by term basis.
- Testing should be comprehensive. Multiple tests are required for the purpose of diagnosing a Learning Disability or for establishing that substantial limitation in a major life activity currently exists in individuals with a previous diagnosis of LD. Domains to be addressed should include (but are not limited to):
- Aptitude. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Revised (WAIS-R) or WAIS-III with subtest scores is the preferred instrument. The Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery – Revised: Tests of Cognitive Ability or the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: Fourth Edition are acceptable.
- Achievement. Current levels of functioning in reading, mathematics and written language are required. Acceptable instruments include the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery – Revised: Tests of Achievement; Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT); Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK); Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA); or specific achievement tests such as the Test of Written Language – 3 (TOWL-3), Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests – Revised, and the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test.
- Information Processing. Specific areas of information processing (i.e., short- and long-term memory, auditory and visual perception/processing, processing speed) must be assessed. Information from sub-tests on the WAIS-R (or WAIS-III), the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability, or the Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-Adult (DTLA-A), as well as other instruments relevant to the presenting learning problem(s) may be used to address these areas. Assessment in other pertinent and areas, such as vocational interests and aptitudes, is also helpful.
- Tests used to document eligibility must have sound methodology (i.e., be statistically reliable and valid) and should be standardized for use with an adult population. Actual test scores must be provided. Standard scores are required; percentiles and grade equivalents are not acceptable unless standard scores are also included. In addition to actual test scores, interpretation of results is required.
Note: The Coordinator of Disability Services is available to consult with students, parents, diagnosticians, and educators regarding these guidelines.