Education Guidelines for Documentation of Disability
from the Virginia AHEAD and Virginia's Higher Education Workgroup.
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.
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.
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:
diagnostic statement identifying the disability, date
of the most current diagnostic evaluation, and the
date of the original diagnosis.
description of the diagnostic tests, methods, and/or
criteria used including specific test results (including
standardized testing scores) and the examiner's narrative
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
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.
description of the expected progression or stability
of the impact of the disability over time, particularly
the next five years.
history of previous accommodations and their impact.
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.
prepared for specific non-educational venues (i.e.
Social Security Administration, or Department of Veteran's
Affairs, etc.) may not meet these criteria.
or 504 plans will not be considered sufficient documentation
unless accompanied by a current and complete evaluation.
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.
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.
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.
most institutions of higher education utilize guidelines developed
by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)
and the Educational Testing Serviced (ETS). These are referenced
below for informational purposes.
(Learning Disability guidelines) - www.ahead.org/ldguide.html
ETS (Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder guidelines)
ETS (Psychiatric Disability guidelines) - www.ets.org/disability.html
guidelines have now been formally adopted by AHEAD in VA and
the Higher Education Workgroup. The workgroup is comprised
of representatives from the VA Community College System, SCHEV,
DRS, VDDHH, VDBVI, DOE, and AHEAD in VA members.