Disability Support Services

Division of Student Services

Disability Documentation Guidelines

Reed College is committed to providing equality of opportunity and meaningful access for qualified students with disabilities in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A qualified student with a disability at Reed is someone who has a disability and who, with reasonable or no accommodations, is capable of meeting Reed's academic and community standards.

Terminology
Documentation of a Disability at Reed
Essential Elements of Quality Disability Documentation
Recency and Scope of Documentation
Examples of Quality Documentation
Costs and Resources for Assessment/Diagnosis

Terminology

The following terms are relevant in the educational setting:

Disability: A physical or psychological condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Major life activity: Includes but is not limited to the functions of caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Substantially limits: Unable to perform a major life activity or significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed.

Documentation of a Disability at Reed

Generally, students seeking disability support services must provide adequate documentation of their disability to Disability Support Services in a timely manner. Disability information provided to another department (such as Residence Life, Admissions or the Health and Counseling Center) may not be known to Disability Support Services. We therefore encourage students seeking accommodations to send relevant documentation directly to our office. We are able to receive documentation via fax, postal service, email, or in person at office 110 in the Dorothy Johansen House.

Students who do not yet have documentation of a disability are welcome to meet with DSS to learn about the accommodations process, the resources we offer, and other campus resources that may be available with or without the use of accommodations.

Essential Elements of Quality Disability Documentation

In general, disability documentation should include the following components:

  • The credentials of the evaluator(s). The best quality documentation is provided by a licensed or otherwise properly credentialed professional who has undergone appropriate and comprehensive training, has relevant experience, and has no personal relationship with the individual being evaluated. A good match between the credentials of the individual making the diagnosis and the condition being reported is expected (e.g., an orthopedic limitation might be documented by a physician, but not a licensed psychologist).

  • A diagnostic statement identifying the disability. Quality documentation includes a clear diagnostic statement that describes how the condition was diagnosed, provides information on the functional impact, and details the typical progression or prognosis of the condition. While diagnostic codes from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) are helpful in providing this information, a full clinical description will also convey the necessary information.

  • A description of the diagnostic methodology used. Quality documentation includes a description of the diagnostic criteria, evaluation methods, procedures, tests and dates of administration, as well as a clinical narrative, observation, and specific results. Where appropriate to the nature of the disability, having both summary data and specific test scores (with the norming population identified) within the report is recommended. Diagnostic methods that are congruent with the particular disability and current professional practices in the field are recommended. Methods may include formal instruments, medical examinations, structured interview protocols, performance observations and unstructured interviews. If results from informal, non-standardized or less common methods of evaluation are reported, an explanation of their role and significance in the diagnostic process will strengthen their value in providing useful information.

  • A description of the current functional limitations. Information on how the disabling condition(s) currently impacts the individual provides useful information for both establishing a disability and identifying possible accommodations. A combination of the results of formal evaluation procedures, clinical narrative, and the individual’s self report is the most comprehensive approach to fully documenting impact. The best quality documentation is thorough enough to demonstrate whether and how a major life activity is substantially limited by providing a clear sense of the severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the condition(s). 
While relatively recent documentation is recommended in most circumstances, common sense and discretion permit older documentation of conditions that are permanent or non-varying. Likewise, changing conditions and/or changes in how the condition impacts the individual brought on by growth and development may warrant more frequent updates in order to provide an accurate picture. It is important to remember that documentation is not time-bound; the need for recent documentation varies with the facts and circumstances of the individual’s condition. (See "Recency and Scope of Documentation" below)

  • A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability. It is helpful when documentation provides information on expected changes in the functional impact of the disability over time and context. Information on the cyclical or episodic nature of the disability and known or suspected environmental triggers to episodes provides opportunities to anticipate and plan for varying functional impacts. If the condition is not stable, information on interventions (including the individual’s own strategies) for exacerbations and recommended timelines for re-evaluation are most helpful.

  • A description of current and past accommodations, services and/or medications. The most comprehensive documentation will include a description of both current and past medications, auxiliary aids, assistive devices, support services, and accommodations, including their effectiveness in ameliorating functional impacts of the disability. A discussion of any significant side effects from current medications or services that may impact physical, perceptual, behavioral or cognitive performance is helpful when included in the report. While accommodations provided in another setting are not binding on the current institution, they may provide insight in making decisions.

  • Recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services. Recommendations from professionals with a history of working with the individual provide valuable information for review and the planning process. It is most helpful when recommended accommodations and strategies are logically related to functional limitations. If connections are not obvious, a clear explanation of their relationship can be useful in decision-making. While the post-secondary institution has no obligation to provide or adopt recommendations made in a student’s documentation, those that are congruent with the programs, services, and benefits offered by the college or program may be appropriate.

(Adapted from AHEAD: Seven essential elements of quality documentation, 2008)

Recency and Scope of Documentation

The provision of all reasonable accommodations and services is based upon a case-by-case assessment of the impact of the student's disabilities on their academic performance and/or participation in College programs at a given time in the student's life. Therefore, documentation of the disability generally should not be more than 3 years old and should reflect the student’s current condition and related impact(s). Although documentation can be from a variety of sources, it must prepared by a professional who has the appropriate credentials and qualifications to address the functional limitations related to the disability in the relevant setting (i.e., academic, residential living, etc.).

Disabillity documentation may contain recommendations for accommodations. Generally, recommendations for accommodations should be supported by information about the functional impact of the disability on specific major life activities; the degree of significance of the impact on the individual; and an explanation as to why each accommodation is recommended. Decisions about the nature of the accommodations provided are made using the documentation provided in consultation with the student (and, at times, the diagnosing professional) as well as information about the student's ability to access and/or participate in Reed's programs. At times, input from faculty and/or relevant staff in other departments may inform decisions regarding the nature of reasonable and appropriate accommodations. The final determination for providing appropriate and reasonable accommodations rests with the College.

Depending on the type of disability and the nature of the accommodations requested, some documentation may be outdated or inadequate in scope or content; it may not address the student's current level of functioning or need for accommodations as changes may have occurred since the previous evaluation was conducted. In such cases, the College may request updated disability documentation. Since the purpose of the update is to determine the student's current need for accommodations, the update should include a request and rationale for ongoing services and accommodations.

A record of accommodations awarded elsewhere, such as an individualized education program (or IEP, also called a 504 plan) from high school, may be insufficient documentation to receive accommodations. However, these records can still be helpful in discussing options for current accommodations and are welcome supplements to a student’s disability documentation. While there are benefits to obtaining a full neuropsychological or psychoeducational assessment, this may not be necessary for all students seeking accommodations related to a learning disability and/or mental health disability.

Examples of Quality Documentation

Learning Disabilities 


The evaluation generally should:

  • be prepared by a professional qualified to diagnose a learning disability, (including but not limited to a learning disability specialist and/or psychologist) with comprehensive training with adolescents and adults with learning disabilities;

  • include a description of functional impact of diagnosis and include specifics of how the learning process may be affected by any relevant symptoms (updated documentation may need to be submitted if the assessment is not current);

  • include recommendations and rationale for accommodations and/or assistive technology, and;

  • include the testing procedures followed, the instruments used to assess the disability, the test results, and a written interpretation of the test results by the professional.


Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The evaluation generally should:

  • be conducted by a qualified professional whose background includes training and relevant experience in the full range of psychiatric diagnoses;

  • include a summary of relevant historical information including initial onset, diagnosis, medication and indication of ADD/ADHD throughout adolescence or adulthood;

  • include a description of the current functional impact of the diagnosis and include specifics of how the learning process may be affected under current treatment conditions (updated documentation may need to be submitted if the assessment is not current);

  • include recommendations and rationale for accommodations and/or assistive technology, and;

  • include psychoeducational test scores to document the nature and severity of the disability.

Psychological and Psychiatric Disabilities


The evaluation generally should:

  • be made by a professional who is qualified with appropriate training in diagnosing psychological and/ psychiatric disorders;

  • include a summary of relevant historical information including initial onset, diagnosis, medication and indication of psychological/ psychiatric disorders throughout adolescence or adulthood;

  • include a description of the current functional impact of the diagnosis and include specifics of how the learning process may be affected under current treatment conditions (updated documentation may need to be submitted if the assessment is not current);

  • include recommendations and rationale for accommodations and/or assistive technology, and;

  • include test scores to document the nature and severity of the disability, if applicable.

Visual Impairment or Blindness


The evaluation generally should:

  • include an ophthalmologic evaluation made by a qualified professional;

  • be current and reflect present condition (in the case of visual acuity changes, new documentation should be submitted), and;

  • identify functional limitations and provide recommendations for academic accommodations and/or assistive technology.



Deaf/Hard of Hearing

The evaluation generally should:

  • include a diagnosis based on an audiological evaluation conducted by a qualified professional;

  • be current and relevant, and;

  • provide a description of functional limitations and recommendations for academic accommodations, interpreter services, and other services including assistive technology.


Mobility and Orthopedic Disabilities


The evaluation generally should:

  • be made by a qualified professional with the appropriate training in diagnosing physical disabilities;

  • be current and relevant, and;

  • include a diagnosis, a description of any functional limitations and recommendations for accommodations and /or assistive technology.

Medical Conditions


The evaluation generally should:

  • be prepared by a qualified and appropriate health professional;

  • reflect the present condition (in case of changes, new documentation should be submitted);

  • identify current treatments, if any, and include information describing the possible impact of medications or other treatments upon academic performance, and;

  • identify functional limitations in the academic environment and recommendations for accommodations and/ or assistive technology.

Temporary Conditions

The evaluation generally should:

  • be prepared by a qualified and appropriate health professional;

  • include a diagnosis;

  • identify the functional impairments that impact the student’s academic work or participation in other Reed programs;

  • describe the severity and anticipated duration of the condition; and

  • include a detailed rationale for any suggested accommodations.

Costs and Resources for Assessment/Diagnosis

Costs associated with diagnosis, evaluation, and testing or re-testing generally are the responsibility of the student. For students currently enrolled at Reed, referral to the Health and Counseling Center and/or other professionals in the community may be appropriate. If the cost of a psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment would pose an undue financial hardship for you or your family, contact Disability Support Services to discuss alternative documentation standards and possible financial assistance options.

Contact Disability Support Services

disability-services
@reed.edu

Phone: 503/517-7921
Fax: 503/517-5532
Office: Dorothy Johansen House

Theresa Lowrie
Director
Dorothy Johansen House
503/517-7921

Jess Gibson
Assistant Director
Dorothy Johansen House
503/517-7689