Documentation for Disability Verification

Documentation provides the university with verification of a student’s disability. It is the student's responsibility to provide documentation of a disability to the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS). Documentation requirements vary depending on the specific disability. In general, the less apparent the disability, the more information is required to determine a student’s needs and make accommodation recommendations. Documentation should be recent, relevant, comprehensive and where appropriate, contain test scores and interpretations (e.g., learning disability reports, audiograms, etc.).

If the original documentation is incomplete or inadequate to determine the extent of the disability or reasonable accommodations, the university has the discretion to require additional documentation.

Confidentiality

The university is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of current and former students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are entitled to privacy and discretion in the handling of all disability-related information. Disability information provided to OAS for accessibility requests, including documentation to establish the existence of a disability, is used solely for the purpose of enabling UMUC to provide supportive, academic and other services related to the student’s disability. Disability-related information is collected and maintained separately from other academic information and is kept in secure files with limited access. Disability information is not considered part of a student’s permanent academic record and is only shared on a need-to-know basis.

Disclosing a Disability

Students are under no obligation to disclose a disability unless an accommodation is being requested; likewise, faculty and staff have no authority to review disability documentation or obtain any information concerning a student's disability without a legitimate educational need to know.

Academic Records

Students’ grades, transcripts and other academic information are also confidential and are only released in accordance with the law and UMUC policies and procedures. It is the student’s responsibility to provide copies of grade reports and/or any other academic information to any agencies or individuals sponsoring the student.

Documentation Requirements

Students requesting accommodations and/or support services under the amended Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 must provide documentation of the existence of a disability that substantially limits a major life activity (e.g., learning, speaking, breathing, seeing, hearing, walking, etc.). OAS uses an individualized process to establish reasonable accommodations based on the student’s feedback and a review of all supporting documentation. Students may submit any documentation that is current and relevant, with the understanding that additional information may be required to support a specific accommodation request.

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 or Summary of Performance (SOP) can be submitted as documentation, as long as the information provided addresses the impact of the condition and assists OAS to determine a connection between the disability and the accommodation (s) being requested. OAS reserves the right to request additional documentation in order to support specific accommodations.

All Documentation Must

  • Be completed by an evaluator who has training and experience with adolescent/adult populations.
  • Include the evaluator’s name, title, professional credentials, area of specialization, employer and state/province in which the individual practices.
  • Be typed, printed on letterhead, dated, signed and legible.

Learning Disabilities

To accurately determine the appropriate accommodations for students with learning disabilities, documentation should be current. To be current, the evaluation must have been completed within the last three years or when the student was an adult (usually, older than 15) so that adult scales and instruments were used.

Comprehensive Assessment

This assessment should include a diagnostic interview to determine medical, developmental, psychosocial, family and academic history, as well as employment history, if applicable.

It should include assessments of:

  • General intelligence: All tests must be applicable for adult populations, and the evaluator should list subscale scores and, where applicable, index or cluster scores.
  • Cognitive battery: A complete cognitive battery, appropriate for an adult population, with all subtest and standard scores reported, should be included. Data should logically reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the student is requesting the accommodation. The tests should be reliable, valid and standardized for use with adolescent/adult populations. The test findings should document both the nature and severity of the disability. The following cognitive processing areas must be assessed. There must also be evidence of processing strengths identified in one or more of the following areas.
    • Attention
    • Oral language
    • Phonological/orthographic processing
    • Fluency/automaticity
    • Memory/learning (working memory, long-term memory and/or short-term memory)
    • Functions
    • Visual-perceptual/visual spatial
    • Visual-motor

Academic Achievement

A comprehensive academic achievement battery should include current levels of academic functioning in relevant areas, such as reading (decoding and comprehension), mathematics and oral and written language.

Specific Diagnosis

Individual learning styles, learning differences, academic problems and/or test anxiety, in and of themselves, do not constitute a learning disability. The diagnostician must use specific language in the documentation, avoiding the use of such terms as “suggests” or “is indicative of.” If the data indicates that a learning disability is present, the evaluator should state this conclusion in the report.

Clinical Summary

The clinical summary should include a demonstration of the evaluator having ruled out alternative explanations for academic problems (e.g., poor education, poor motivation, emotional problems, cultural/language differences, etc.); an indication of how patterns in the student’s cognitive ability, achievement and information processing reflect the presence of a learning disability; an indication of the substantial limitation to learning or other major life activity presented by the learning disability; and the degree to which it impacts the individual in the learning context for which accommodations are being requested.

Suggestions for Accommodations

It is helpful for the evaluator to include suggested accommodations based on the clinical findings.

Testing Instruments

The testing instruments used to assess the student must be technically adequate and document both the nature and severity of the learning disability. Following are suggested testing instruments.

  • General intelligence tests: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-III or WAIS-R), Woodcock- Johnson Psycho Educational Battery-Revised (Test of Cognitive Ability), Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test, Standford–Binet Intelligence Scale (4th ed.). Note: The Slosson IQ–Revised and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test are primarily screening devices and are therefore not comprehensive measures of intelligence.
  • Academic achievement tests: Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA), Stanford Test of Academic Skills, Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery-Revised: Tests of Achievement, Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WAIT), Nelson Denny Reading Skills Test, Stanford Diagnostic Math Test, Test of Written Language, Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised. Note: The Wide Range Achievement Test-3 is not a comprehensive measure of achievement and therefore would not be helpful in the diagnostic process.
  • Cognitive battery tests: WAIS-R subtest, Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery-Revised (Tests of Cognitive Ability), Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-3, Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-Adult.

Attention Deficit Disorder

Documentation of ADD or ADHD should be in the form of a letter or report prepared by an appropriate professional (e.g., psychiatrist, physician or psychologist) within the last three years.

It should include:

  • A clear statement of ADD or ADHD with the DSM-IV diagnosis
  • A description of the symptoms that meet the criteria for the diagnosis
  • A summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis
  • Information about current medication(s) used to treat the disability
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication(s)
  • A statement of the functional limitations of the impairment
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication or any other form of currently prescribed treatment

Physical Impairments

Documentation of mobility impairment should consist of a letter or report from a qualified health care professional or physician.

The letter or report should include:

  • 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(s)
  • 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 that 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:

  • 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(s)
  • Whether visual aids are recommended
  • Suggested recommendations for effective and reasonable accommodations

Hearing Impairments

A hearing impairment is a hearing loss of 30 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, sensory neural hearing impairment or deafness, high-or low-tone hearing loss or deafness or acoustic trauma hearing loss or deafness.

Documentation of a hearing impairment should be in the form of a report from an audiologist and must include:

  • The results of an audiogram that shows the type of hearing loss (either conductive or sensory neural)
  • The degree of hearing loss
  • A specific diagnosis
  • Whether the condition is stable or progressive
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication(s)
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication(s) 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 (e.g., physician) and must include:

  • A specific diagnosis
  • The functional limitations of the impairment
  • Whether the condition is stable or progressive
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication(s) or another form of treatment
  • Possible side effects of any prescribed medication(s)
  • 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, such as a 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:

  • 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. 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(s)
  • Whether the condition is mitigated by medication(s) 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

Questions?

Contact OAS as early as possible, particularly if you have questions about what documentation is required for eligibility purposes.

Call 800-888-UMUC (8682), ext. 2287, or e-mail accessibilityservices@umuc.edu.