Documentation Guidelines

General Information about Requirements

Federal and state law require colleges and universities to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities that substantially impair or limit their ability to achieve their maximum academic potential. Students requesting accommodations and/or support services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 must provide current documentation of the existence of a disability which substantially limits a major life activity (i.e. learning, speaking, breathing, seeing, hearing, walking, etc.).

Certain disabilities such as blindness, deafness, and orthopedic impairments are readily observable and therefore may not require extensive documentation to validate the need for accommodations. However, disabilities that are less obvious, such as learning disabilities, health impairments, psychological impairments, etc., may require extensive documentation to determine appropriate and reasonable accommodations.

Documentation information should validate the need for services based on the individual's current level of functioning in the educational setting. A school plan such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan is insufficient documentation, but these plans can be included as part of a more comprehensive assessment battery.

What All Documentation Provided to OSWD Needs to Include

  • Name, title and professional credentials of the evaluator as well as the area of specialization, employment and state/province in which the individual practices should be clearly stated in the documentation.
  • All reports should be on letterhead, typed, dated, signed and otherwise legible.
  • The evaluator should have training and experience with adolescent/adult populations.

Learning Disabilities

See our "Guidelines for Documenting a Learning Disability (LD)" (PDF).

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

See our "Guidelines for Documenting an Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)" (PDF).

Physical Impairments

Documentation of mobility impairment should consist of a letter or report from a qualified health care professional (i.e. physician). The letter or report should include the following:

  • The type of disability.
  • A statement of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disability.
  • A description of the duration of functional limitation(s), such as any distance limitations.
  • Whether the condition is stable or progressive.
  • Whether the condition is temporary or permanent.
  • Information about current medication(s) used to treat the disability.
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication.
  • Suggested recommendations for effective and reasonable accommodations.

Visual Impairments

Visual impairments are usually defined as disorders in the structure and function of the eye as manifested by at least one of the following: visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better eye after the best possible correction, a peripheral field so constricted that it affects one's ability to function in an educational setting, or a progressive loss of vision which may affect one's ability to function in an educational setting. Examples include, but are not limited to: cataracts, glaucoma, nystagmus, retinal detachment, retinitis pigmentosa, and strabismus. Documentation of a visual impairment should consist of a letter or report from an optometrist or ophthalmologist and must include the following:

  • An explanation of the extent of the individual's visual fields.
  • A specific diagnosis.
  • The degree of visual acuity.
  • Whether the condition is stable or progressive.
  • A statement of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disability.
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed aids or medication.
  • Whether visual aids are recommended.
  • Suggested recommendations for effective and reasonable accommodations.

Hearing Impairments

A hearing impairment is a hearing loss of thirty decibels or greater, pure tone average of 500, 1000, 2000 Hz, ANSI, unaided, in the better ear. Examples include, but are not limited to: conductive hearing impairment or deafness, sensorineural hearing impairment or deafness, high- or low-tone hearing loss or deafness, acoustic trauma hearing loss or deafness. Documentation of a hearing impairment should be in the form of a report from an audiologist. This report must include:

  • The results of an audiogram that shows the type of hearing loss (either conductive or sensorineural).
  • The degree of hearing loss.
  • A specific diagnosis.
  • Whether the condition is stable or progressive.
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication.
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication or hearing aids.
  • A statement of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disability.
  • Suggested recommendations for effective and reasonable accommodations.

Health-Related Impairments

Documentation of a health-related impairment should consist of a letter or report from a qualified health care professional (i.e. physician). This report should include the following:

  • A specific diagnosis.
  • The functional limitations of the impairment.
  • Whether the condition is stable or progressive.
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication or another form of treatment.
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication.
  • A description of situations that may exacerbate the condition.
  • Suggested recommendations for effective and reasonable accommodations.

Mental-Health Impairments

Documentation of mental health impairments should consist of a detailed report by a qualified mental health professional (i.e. psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker with appropriate competencies related to the student's diagnosis). All documentation must be current, within the past year, and should include the following:

  • A complete DSM-IV diagnosis with an accompanying description of the specific symptoms the student experiences.
  • The diagnosis should be based upon a comprehensive clinical interview and psychological testing (when testing is clinically appropriate).
  • A complete description of the impact on academic functioning of the student's symptoms must be provided. Descriptions of the impact upon study skills, classroom behavior, test taking and organizing research would be examples of academic functioning.
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication.
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication or any other form of currently prescribed treatment.
  • A statement of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disorder.
  • Recommendations for effective and reasonable accommodations. Diagnostic information and its impact upon student functioning must be related to the academic accommodations that are recommended.

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