General Documentation Guidelines
Disability Resources evaluates students’ requests for accommodations by utilizing a holistic approach. This includes a review of formalized disability documentation, the student’s narrative of their disability experience, and any relevant supplemental information such as a history of accommodations (e.g., IEP/504 Plan, ETS/College Board accommodations).
Documentation of a disability and its impact is an integral component in understanding, from a professional and objective perspective, the functional limitations associated with a diagnosed condition. When the nature of a condition is apparent (e.g., blindness, wheelchair user), formal documentation may not be necessary. However, in the majority of situations, relevant disability documentation is necessary in order to assist in DR’s evaluation of accommodation needs. While a history of accommodations (such as a 504 plan, IEP, or other type of record of accommodation) is helpful supplemental information as Disability Resources undertakes its assessment, it is not, by itself, sufficient disability documentation unless it includes evaluative information.
General Documentation Guidelines must include the following information:
- Qualifications of Evaluator/Professional: Documentation is to be provided by a licensed or otherwise qualified professional who has undergone appropriate and comprehensive training, has relevant experience and expertise in the area for which accommodations are being requested and has no personal relationship with the individual being evaluated.
- Diagnosis/es or Assessed Condition: Information must clearly state the student’s diagnosis/es or assessed condition; how it was determined, the functional impact on one or more major life activities, and the date of diagnosis. When relevant, diagnostic codes from DSM or ICF should be provided.
- Description of Procedures/Assessments Employed: The evaluator(s) must specify the procedures/assessments/evaluations utilized to confirm the student’s diagnosis/es and the presence of a disability.
- Symptom Severity, Frequency, and Duration: Evaluators must specify current symptoms associated with the condition, and include a level of severity, duration, and frequency. They must note which symptoms rise to the level of disability (moderate-severe) and are specific to the student (not general symptoms associated with the condition).
- Current Functional Impact: Information should articulate how each symptom, or comorbid effects of symptoms, substantially limits/restricts one or more major life activity, and which major life activities are impacted. For example, moderate hearing loss will impact the extent to which the student may hear. How may these disability-related symptoms manifest in the academic environment?
- Current Medications and Related Side-effects, and/or Treatment Requirements (when relevant): Detailing the known side-effects of medication or treatment schedules/requirements, if any, alerts DR of a potential need to consider accommodations related to class schedules, physical environments, and other accommodations that may assist in alleviating barriers.
Documenting professionals may choose to utilize Disability Resources’ Verification Form when submitting information, but the specific form is not required, assuming necessary information is provided.
Documentation may also be provided in the form of a full evaluation, assessment, and/or report (e.g. psychological, psychoeducational, audiogram). Use of previous accommodations is also helpful as supplemental information to documentation for accommodation planning and resource referral (e.g. IEP, 504 Plan, College Board Accommodations).
Disability Resources has the right to request additional documentation if information submitted is incomplete or insufficient. Therefore, providers utilizing the general documentation guidelines and Disability Verification Form should be as thorough as possible to avoid a delay in DR’s evaluation of the student’s reasonable accommodation eligibility.
- Disability Resources does not diagnose impairments, assess their severity, or identify the current impact and/or functional limitations of a disability; therefore, office medical records, medical chart notes or prescription pad notations are generally not sufficient for determining eligibility.
- Information based solely on a self-report questionnaire, or which only references a student narrative, is not a clinically valid assessment. While a evaluator may utilize such measures to identify areas to be more fully explored and assessed, they are not diagnostic tools and are not an adequate basis for recommending treatments or accommodations.
- It’s important to note that documentation guidelines can vary from institution to institution. Disability Resources’ documentation guidelines are designed to address the expectations of Washington University. Student considering attending another school or seeking accommodations on standardized tests administered by an outside agency are responsible for researching that entity’s policies and documentation requirements. Due to the differences of documentation requirements, there are situations in which it is not possible or appropriate for DR staff to complete certifications of eligibility for those exams. In such instances, DR will communicate with the student and explain the reasoning.