Resources

Topic: Documentation Guidelines

Virginia Higher Education
Guidelines for Documentation of Disability

PURPOSE:

This document defines best practices for developing and maintaining consistent, comprehensive and appropriate guidelines for documenting disabilities and requests for accommodations. It is recommended that the guidelines be used by institutions of higher education, qualified professionals, and secondary education professionals involved in transition planning. The information provides a framework for institutions to establish policies and procedures that are adapted to their specific context, while embracing both the spirit and letter of the law. It is not meant to be a legal treatise and should not be considered legal advice. Institutions are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel before implementing new policies on documentation.

THE NEED FOR DOCUMENTATION:

Under federal law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990), individuals with disabilities are defined as having “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.” Individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination in admissions and employment. With adequate documentation of the current impact of the disability, individuals are entitled to appropriate accommodations. Therefore, documentation serves two primary purposes in post-secondary education. First, documentation must establish that the individual has a disability, and therefore is protected from discrimination. Second, the documentation must describe the current functional impact of the disability so that potential accommodations can be identified.

GENERAL DOCUMENTATION GUIDELINES:

Documentation of disability should consist of an evaluation by an appropriate professional. Included must be a clear statement of the diagnosis, the basis for the diagnosis, and the current impact of the disability as it relates to the accommodation request. As appropriate to the disability, the documentation should include the following elements:

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

A description of the diagnostic tests, methods, and/or criteria used including specific test results (including standardized testing scores) and the examiner's narrative interpretation.

A description of the current functional impact of the disability. This may be in the form of an examiner's narrative, and/or an interview, but must have a rational relationship to diagnostic assessments. For learning disabilities, current documentation is defined using adult norms.

A statement indicating treatments, medications, or assistive devices/services currently prescribed or in use, with a description of the mediating effects and potential side effects from such treatments.

A description of the expected progression or stability of the impact of the disability over time, particularly the next five years.

A history of previous accommodations and their impact.

The credentials of the diagnosing professional(s), if not clear from the letterhead or other forms. Please note that diagnosing professionals shall not be family members or others with a close personal relationship with the individual being evaluated.

Documentation prepared for specific non-educational venues (i.e. Social Security Administration, or Department of Veteran's Affairs, etc.) may not meet these criteria.

IEP or 504 plans will not be considered sufficient documentation unless accompanied by a current and complete evaluation.

Recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services should be considered within the context of the individual's current program. Accommodation decisions are to be made on a case by case basis, considering the impact of a particular student's disability within the specific context in which that student must function.

Beyond the more objective determination of a disability and its impact provided by external documentation, institutions should recognize that input from the individual with a disability is also a rich and important source of information on the impact disability, and on the effectiveness of accommodations.

Records from school divisions concerning students exiting from special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), should be given due consideration by institutions of higher education in determining presence of a qualifying disability and making decisions regarding accommodations.

Nationally, most institutions of higher education utilize guidelines developed by the Educational Testing Serviced (ETS). For more information, go to www.ets.org.

Some of our favorite web sites that may be helpful in learning more about electronic access for people with disabilities:

http://www.w3.org/WAI/Overview.html

Mission: The W3C's commitment to lead the Web to its full potential includes promoting a high degree of usability for people with disabilities. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in coordination with organizations around the world, is pursuing accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education & outreach, and research & development. "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." - Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

http://www.access-board.gov

The federal agency that develops minimum guidelines and requirements for standards issued under ADA and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA).

http://www.trace.wisc.edu

The Trace Research and Development Center at the university of Wisconsin.

Four new fact sheets from the Department of Labor

The Why, When, What, and How of Disclosure in an Academic Setting, After High School

http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/wwwh.htm

Deciding what to do after high school is a complex decision for all youth. For starters, it is the first time additional schooling is not compulsory. You may choose to enter the work world or obtain additional training or education. Youth with disabilities are significantly less likely to start postsecondary education than are their peers without disabilities (27% of students with disabilities transition to postsecondary education compared to 68% of their peers without disabilities).

Youth, Disclosure, and the Workplace: Why, When, What, and How

http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/ydw.htm

Starting a job can be difficult for any young person. If you happen to have a hidden disability, such as a mental health impairment, a new workplace can be overwhelming. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44 is major depressive disorder (and this is only one type of mental health impairment). Along with questions about the job itself, you may have questions about when and how to disclose your disability. You may wonder if it is appropriate to ask for modifications in your new work setting. This fact sheet provides guidance to assist you with a successful transition into the workforce by answering questions regarding disclosure, accommodations and resources.

Advising Youth with Disabilities on Disclosure: Tips for Service Providers

http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/advising.htm

As a professional who provides services such as occupational skills training and job readiness training, you need to know how to help young people decide if they should share information about their disabilities. Disclosure is, by law, a personal decision that individuals with disabilities must make for themselves. As a person who works with youth, you may be in a position to assist youth with apparent and non-apparent disabilities to decide if, when, and how to disclose their disabilities. Understanding disclosure is especially important as youth transition from the K-12 education system to employment or postsecondary education systems. In this transition, they are leaving a system where they are entitled to receive services, and entering another where they may be eligible for reasonable accommodations if they make their needs known, and they are covered by the law.

Entering the World of Work: What Youth with Mental Health Needs Should Know about Accommodations

http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/transitioning.htm

Starting a job can be difficult for any young person. If you happen to have a hidden disability, such as a mental health impairment, a new workplace can be overwhelming. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44 is major depressive disorder (and this is only one type of mental health impairment). Along with questions about the disability itself, you may have questions about when and how to disclose your disability. You may wonder if it is appropriate to ask for modifications in your new work setting. This fact sheet provides guidance to assist you with a successful transition into the workforce by answering questions regarding disclosure, accommodations and resources.