Guidelines for Documentation

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 both require institutions of higher education to provide equal access to educational opportunities to (otherwise) qualified “persons with disabilities.” The first step in this process is to request and review documentation of that individual’s disability from an appropriate practitioner. Service providers struggle with how best to assure that the documentation provided both establishes the student as a person with a disability and is prescriptive in establishing the need for accommodation(s) designed to mitigate the impact of the disability and thus to provide equal access. Professionals in the field of disability support services generally agree that there is a need for the development of consistent and appropriate guidelines for documentation of disability — but are not always in agreement as to what form (or specificity) those guidelines should take. Some service providers have developed guidelines for documentation that vary with the disability of the student. Others have developed more generic policies that provide guidance to students and diagnosticians as to the kind of information necessary to support a request for consideration as a person with a disability at the institution.

An excellent example of the latter (generic) guidelines is given below. Scott Lissner of Longwood College (Virginia) has given his permission to post the guidelines he has developed to this purpose for consideration and use by other practitioners. Those service providers considering the development of disability-specific guidelines may be surprised how much of the information they hope to receive through such highly structured approaches is, in fact, satisfactorily incorporated within Scott’s more general approach.

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR
DOCUMENTATION OF A DISABILITY
L. Scott Lissner
Longwood College (Farmville, VA)
slissner@longwood.lwc.edu

In order to fully evaluate requests for accommodations or auxiliary aids Longwood will need documentation of the disability that consists of an evaluation by an appropriate professional and describes the current impact of the disability as it relates to the accommodation request.

All contact information and documentation received is kept in separate confidential files within the Office Of Disability Support Services. No information concerning inquiries about accommodation or documentation will be released without written consent.

Documentation provided will be used by the Office Of Disability Support Services to evaluate requests for accommodation or auxiliary aids. The evaluation process includes a review of the documentation itself and in the context of documentation on the fundamental goals and essential standards of the program, course, service, or benefit in question.

The evaluation process will generate a list of potentially reasonable accommodations that will then be reviewed based on potential effectiveness, preferences of the requester, maximum level of integration, and the potential for an undue financial or administrative burden.

The guidelines below were developed to assist you in working with your treating professional(s) to prepare the information needed to evaluate your request. If, after reading these guidelines, you have any questions, please call the Director of Academic & Disability Support Services at (804)-395-2391; TT relay service: (800)-828-1120.

For individuals who have recently been receiving services from a public school system; the information requested would most likely be contained in the Psycho-Educational Evaluation from your most recent Triennial Review. Some of the information may also be contained in an IEP, 504 Plan, or Transition Plan. You must request this information separately from your high school transcripts.

For individuals who are or have been recently receiving services from a state rehabilitation agency; much of the requested information will be contained you your most recent eligibility evaluation and/or your vocational plan.

For individuals transferring from another college; information related to your disability will not be sent with a transcript request. You must request that information separately. Additionally the information Longwood is requesting may or may not have been a part of your previous college’s evaluation process. You should check the information against the guidelines below.

AS APPROPRIATE TO THE DISABILITY, DOCUMENTATION SHOULD INCLUDE:

1) A diagnostic statement identifying the disability, date of the current diagnostic evaluation, and the date of the original diagnosis.

The diagnostic systems used by the Department of Education, The State Department of Rehabilitative Services or other State agencies and/or the current editions of either the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems of the World Health Organization (ICD) are the recommended diagnostic taxonomies.

2) A description of the diagnostic criteria and or diagnostic test used.

This description should include the specific results of diagnostic procedures, diagnostic tests utilized, and when administered. When available both summary and specific test scores should be reported as standard scores and the norming population identified. When standard scores are not available; the mean, standard deviation, and the standard error of measurement are requested as appropriate to the construction of the test.

Diagnostic methods used should be congruent with the disability and current professional practices within the field. Informal or non-standardized evaluations should be described in enough detail that a professional colleague could understand their role and significance in the diagnostic process.

3) A description of the current functional impact of the disability

The current functional impact on physical, perceptual, cognitive, and behavioral abilities should be described either explicitly or through the provision of specific results from the diagnostic procedures. Currency will be evaluated based on the typical progression of the disability, its interaction with development across the life span, the presence or absence of significant events (since the date of the evaluation) that would impact functioning, and the applicability of the information to the current context of the request for accommodations.

4) Treatments, medications, assistive devices/services currently prescribed or in use.

A description of treatments, medications, assistive devices, accommodations and/or assistive services in current use and their estimated effectiveness in ameliorating the impact of the disability. Significant side affects that may impact physical, perceptual, behavioral or cognitive performance should also be noted.

5) A description of the expected progression or stability of the impact of the disability over time should be included.

This description should provide an estimate of the change in the functional limitations of the disability over time and/or recommendations concerning the predictable needs for reevaluation.

6) The credentials of the diagnosing professional(s).

Information describing the certification, licensure, and/or the professional training of individuals conducting the evaluation should be provided.

Beyond the six elements expected to be included in documentation; recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services will be considered.

Based on the context of the diagnostic evaluation, recommendations for specific accommodations, adaptive devices, and/or assistive services that may ameliorate the functional impact of the disability and provide fuller access should be described. As appropriate, recommendations for collateral medical, psychological, and/or educational support services or training that would be beneficial may also be included.

Recommendations from professionals with a history of working with the individual provide valuable information for the review process. They will be included in the evaluation of requests for accommodation and/or auxiliary aids. Where such recommendations are congruent with the programs, services, and benefits offered by the College they will be given deference. When recommendations go beyond services and benefits that can be provided by the College they may be used to suggest potential referrals to area service providers beyond the College.