General Guidelines for Documentation of Physical and Non-Neurodevelopmental Mental Disabilities and Need for Accommodation
Note: for students requesting accommodation for neurodevelopmental disorders, including, but not limited to, specific learning disabilities and ADHD, documentation should comply with the separate, specific guidelines for neurodevelopmental disorders rather than these general guidelines.
Please provide these guidelines to your diagnosing/treating professional. S/he will need to make certain that documentation sent to W&L to support your request for disability accommodation includes ALL pertinent information set out in these guidelines.
Note: As stated in these guidelines, documentation must be provided by a provider qualified to diagnose and assess your particular disability(ies), and must be current (generally, no more than one year old - in the case of emotional/psychological conditions, no more than six months old).
In order to fully evaluate your request for accommodation, W&L will need adequate documentation of your disability and your need for accommodation by virtue of the specific functional limitations of your disability. W&L has developed these guidelines to assist your diagnosing/treating professional(s) to prepare the documentation needed to support your accommodation request. The designated administrator (as specified in the University's disability accommodations policies) will maintain all documentation received in a confidential file, separate from your academic record, and will disclose the documentation only in accordance with law or your consent.
Definitions Applicable To All Student Accommodation Requests
- A "disability" is a physical or mental impairment/disorder/condition/syndrome (hereinafter "impairment") that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Physical or mental impairments include, for example (but are not limited to), blindness and visual impairments, deafness and hearing impairments, mobility impairments, neurodevelopmental disorders*, diagnosed emotional or psychological disorders, and some chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes. An impairment that is episodic or in remission can constitute a disability if it substantially limits an individual in a major life activity when it recurs.
- Note: a diagnosis of an impairment, though required, does NOT in and of itself automatically mean that the individual has a "disability" under the ADA or that the individual qualifies for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. While physical and mental impairments may be a source of discomfort or distress, a student who has an impairment, even one that constitutes a "disability" under the ADA, may not necessarily require accommodation.
- "Major life activities" include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.
- An impairment only constitutes a disability when it prevents an individual from performing a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform or when the individual is substantially limited as to the condition, manner or duration he/she can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the average person in the general population.
- A "qualified student with a disability" is a student with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodations, meets the essential eligibility requirements for receiving services or participating in programs or activities.
- A "reasonable accommodation" is a reasonable modification or adjustment to a class or program or the provision of auxiliary aids/services that allows a qualified student with a disability equal opportunity to participate in university programs and activities.
Guidelines For Documentation Of A Disability And Need For Accommodation
As the designated administrator determines appropriate to the particular disability and relevant to the requested accommodation(s), documentation must include:
- A diagnostic statement identifying the nature and extent of the impairment(s), the assessment or evaluation procedures/tests used to make the diagnosis, and the date of the current diagnostic evaluation (within six months for emotional/psychological diagnoses; generally within one year for other diagnoses). Emotional/mental health diagnoses must be supported by criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (most recent edition). Physical health diagnoses must be supported by criteria set forth in the International Classification of Diseases Manual (most recent edition).
- A detailed description of the current functional impact of the impairment(s) in the unmitigated state (in other words, the current functional impact of the impairment(s) without any mitigating treatment, medication, etc.), as relevant to the current request for accommodations. The documentation should describe if/how the impairment(s) limit(s) one or more major life activities - in other words, what are the major symptoms, including level of severity, and how does the impairment currently limit the individual's functioning. If the impairment is one that is episodic or has been in remission, the designated administrator reserves the discretion to require documentation describing the functional impact of the impairment at the time it recurs.
- A description of the expected progression or stability of the impact of the impairment(s) over time, along with a recommendation concerning the predictable need for reevaluation.
- A description of specific accommodations recommended with a detailed explanation of why each recommended accommodation is necessary due to SPECIFIC current functional limitations. Any prior accommodations should be referenced, including information about the specific situation in which the accommodation was used and whether or not it benefited the student. Any other current treatments, medications, assistive devices or self-accommodations should also be referenced, with an explanation of their effectiveness in accommodating the functional impact of the disability(ies), any significant side effects that may impact functional abilities, and whether/how any such current treatments, medications, assistive devices or self-accommodations bear on the specific accommodations being requested of W&L.
- The credentials of the diagnosing professional. The type of professional specialist involved will obviously differ depending on the nature of the impairment(s). However, all professionals must have comprehensive relevant training and must hold a current license in the state in which they practice. Documentation must be on official letterhead from the offices of the diagnosing professional.
Note: In the case of emotional/psychological disorders, conditions, or syndromes, the professional must have comprehensive training in the differential diagnosis of mental disorders and direct experience in diagnosis and treatment of adults. Qualified diagnosing professionals would include licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists, or other professionals with such training and expertise in the diagnosis of mental disorders.
W&L reserves the right to request additional documentation as necessary to fully evaluate individual requests for accommodations.
Note: The fact that your diagnosing/treating professional makes specific accommodation recommendations does not guarantee that the University will find you qualify for any accommodation or the specific accommodation(s) recommended. The University's obligation is to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified persons with a disability, not necessarily to provide particular accommodations requested or recommended.