Disability Support Services

Division of Student Services

Services for Students with Disabilities

Documentation and Accommodation Guidelines

Reed College is committed to providing equality of opportunity and meaningful access for qualified students with physical, psychological, attentional or learning-based disabilities in compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws including 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, but who, with reasonable or no accommodations, is capable of meeting Reed's academic and community standards.

Documentation of a Disability
Essential Elements of Quality Disability Documentation
Recency of Documentation
Examples of Acceptable Documentation
Recommendations for Accommodations
Arranging for Reasonable Accommodations
Costs and Resources for Diagnosis/Testing


The following legal terms, included in the ADA, have relevance 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.


Generally, students seeking support services under the ADA must have adequate documentation on file in Disability Support Services in a timely manner before accommodations can begin, preferably as soon after admission or knowledge of the disability as possible. Students should not assume that this disability information is known to Disability Support Services merely because the student's application indicated the presence of a disability, or another office such as Residence Life or the Health and Counseling Center was notified. 


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 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)


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 his or her academic performance and/or college participation at a given time in the student's life. Therefore, documentation of the disability generally should not be more than 3 years old.

Based on the type of disability, 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 because changes may have occurred since the previous evaluation was conducted. In such cases, the college may request an updated report. Since the purpose of the update is to determine the student's current need for accommodations, the update, conducted by a qualified professional, should include a request and rationale for ongoing services and accommodations.

Note: a record of accommodations awarded elsewhere, such as an individualized education program (or IEP, also called a 504 plan) from high school, generally is insufficient documentation to receive accommodations. However, these records can still be helpful in discussing options for current accommodations and are welcome supplements to a documentation package.


Each student is responsible for providing professional testing and evaluation results that reflect the individual's present level of disability and present achievement level. Although documentation can be from a variety of sources, it must be from a competent, credentialed authority who can address the functional limitations due to the disability and its impact in an academic setting. Generally, the documentation must be recent, normally within the last three years.

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;
  • be within the past three years and be updated as required;
  • include a description of functional impact of diagnosis and include specifics of how the learning process may be affected by any relevant symptoms;
  • 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.

The evaluation generally should:

  • be conducted by a qualified professional whose background includes training and relevant experience in the full range of psychiatric diagnoses;
  • be within the past three years and be updated as required;
  • 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 functional impact of diagnosis and include specifics of how the learning process may be affected under current treatment conditions;
  • 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 & Psychiatric Disabilities

The evaluation generally should:

  • be made by a professional who is qualified with appropriate training in diagnosing psychological and/ psychiatric disorders;
  • be within the past three years and be updated as required;
  • 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 functional impact of diagnosis and include specifics of how the learning process may be affected under current treatment conditions;
  • include recommendations and rationale for accommodations and/or assistive technology, and;
  • include test scores to document the nature and severity of the disability.

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/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 submitted by a qualified and appropriate health professional;
  • be within the past three years and 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.

Psychoeducational testing for attention and psychiatric disabilities
The benefits of obtaining a psychoeducational battery include:

  • evaluating the level of disability specifically as it relates to academic tasks,
  • determining the appropriateness of accommodations,
  • to rule out other conditions, and
  • to ensure equity in determining accommodations.

Requiring a full battery evaluation is not necessarily a requirement for all students. If you feel that the psychoeducational testing requirement constitutes an undue financial hardship for you or your family, contact the Disability Support Services staff to discuss alternative documentation standards and financial assistance options.


Accommodations are alterations or services that are intended to allow students to perform on an equal basis with peers in class. It is important to recognize that accommodation needs can change over time and are not always identified through the initial diagnostic process. Conversely, a prior history of accommodation does not, in and of itself, warrant the provision of a similar accommodation.

The student's diagnostic report should include specific recommendations for accommodations as well as an explanation as to why each accommodation is recommended. The evaluators should describe the impact the diagnosed disability has on a specific major life activity as well as the degree of significance of this impact on the individual. The evaluators should support recommendations with specific test results or clinical observations. If accommodations are not clearly recommended in a diagnostic report, clarification may be requested.

Decisions regarding the nature of the accommodations are made using the documentation provided in consultation with the student and the diagnosing professional; the ability to access information, services, and classrooms; and the ability to produce work in a classroom environment or participate in college activities. Although faculty generally are not contacted by student services without a student's written consent, input from faculty can be an important part of the process. The final determination for providing appropriate and reasonable accommodations rests with the college.


Reed College has identified the Disability Support Services Director as the primary resource for students needing academic accommodations and for faculty needing information. The Associate Dean of Students oversees the office of Disability Support Services.  A staff member from the Disability Support Services Office initially meets individually with each student seeking services to discuss Disability Support Services, appropriate documentation on file, and requests for accommodation. Students are strongly encouraged to make accommodation requests as early as possible to allow the appropriate opportunity for disability service approval, planning, faculty notification, adjustments, etc. For example, a request for books on tape may take weeks to implement whereas a request for extended time on a test generally takes only a few days to approve.

Accommodations requested in a timely manner that are determined and approved by the college as reasonable on a case-by-case basis may include but are not limited to: course load modifications; adjustments in test-taking; availability of note-takers, readers, interpreters, taped textbooks, auxiliary aids; and extended time to complete longer assignments. Course load modifications, requirement waivers and substitutions, and additional time to complete the degree may be petitioned through the college's Administration Committee and/or the student's academic division. Generally, accommodations are not considered reasonable if they fundamentally alter the nature of the academic or community standards or programs, or cause an undue burden on the college.

After the student meets with a staff member in the Disability Support Services office and provides written permission, the Disability Support Services Director sends relevant faculty written notification informing them of the accommodations that have been requested and approved for that semester. Students then should follow up with their instructors to work out the implementation details of the accommodations. Students are also encouraged to meet with their adviser to discuss pertinent aspects of their academic program and study needs. A student who believes that he or she has not been given appropriate accommodations by a faculty member should, if comfortable, discuss the issue with the faculty member in question and try to reach a resolution. Students should not, however, independently solicit accommodations from faculty but should begin that process in the Disability Support Services Office.

Although uncommon, any continuing concern by a student of faculty or staff's compliance with an approved accommodation generally should be brought to the attention of the Disability Support Services Director who should attempt to find arrangements which best address the needs of the instructor, the student, and the college. If a resolution cannot be reached, the Disability Support Services Director may bring the matter to the Dean of the faculty and/or the Dean of Student Services.

Temporary accommodations

Temporary accommodations may be possible when a qualified professional has performed an initial assessment of the student and the Disability Support Services office approves a written evaluation describing this assessment.  The written evaluation should include a diagnosis, a comprehensive evaluation of the student's disability, the functional impairments that impact their academic work or participation in community norms and a detailed rationale for accommodations.  In order to receive temporary accommodations, the student generally must sign a statement acknowledging the date that the temporary accommodations expire.


Disability documentation is shared only on a need-to-know basis. Disability-related information is kept in secure files, access to which is generally restricted to those with whom the student has shared the information directly, and those for whom the student has discussed, with the staff in Disability Support Services, should be informed.  In rare instances, when there is a compelling reason to share disabilities information in the absence of a signed release in order to provide essential services, staff will make every effort to inform the student of this decision ahead of time.  If you have any questions, please contact Disability Support Services via email or phone at  503/517-7921.


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 you have questions about services for students with disabilities at Reed College, please contact:

Disability Support Services  503/517-7921

Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland, OR 97202; Fax 503/517-5532