Students requesting services from Disability Services at Cedarville University are required to submit documentation to determine eligibility in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 defines an individual with a disability as a person who:
- has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities,
- has a record of such an impairment; or
- is regarded as having such impairment.
Examples of disabilities are:
- Vision impairments
- Hearing impairments
- Mobility impairments
- Mental health/psychiatric impairments
- Health impairments/chronic illnesses
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Speech/language disorders
- Traumatic brain injury
- Temporary impairment
Cedarville University is committed to ensuring equal access to educational opportunities to students with disabilities. Documentation (objective evidence) is an important element in determining the eligibility of students requesting accommodations, academic adjustments, and auxiliary aids and services. All documentation must adequately verify the nature and extent of the disability in accordance with current professional standards, techniques, and practices. The documentation provided must clearly substantiate the current functional impact of the disability as it relates to the student's specific accommodation request. If academic or classroom-based adjustments and accommodations are requested, learning must be one of the major life activities substantially limited.
Unlike K-12 institutions, colleges do not use an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). Instead, colleges rely on documentation provided by students. While a student's IEP or 504 Plan may be helpful in establishing a history of disability and effective strategies for accommodation, it may not be sufficient to document a disability or to determine the appropriate academic accommodations at the postsecondary level.
Generally, documentation must be within three to five years of the request for accommodations. Because the provision of all appropriate academic accommodations and services is based upon an assessment of the current impact of the disability, it is in the student's best interest to provide recent documentation that is adequate and complete. While the original diagnosis may not have changed, the effects it has had on major life areas may have changed over time through treatment and adaptation. Older documentation will be evaluated on an individual basis.
All documentation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The process for determining eligibility is not a same-day process. Once documentation is received, it will be reviewed in order of receipt. Therefore, it is recommended that documentation be submitted well in advance of any accommodation-related needs.
Cedarville University has the right to deny a request for accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary services if the documentation demonstrates that they are not warranted, or if the student fails to provide appropriate or complete documentation.
Provision of documentation to Disability Services is the responsibility of the student. The responsibility and cost of obtaining documentation are borne by the student. If the initial documentation is incomplete or inadequate to determine the extent of the disability and reasonable accommodations, Disability Services has the discretion to require additional documentation. Any cost of obtaining additional documentation is also borne by the student. If Disability Services desires a second professional opinion, Cedarville University bears the cost.
Documentation submitted to Disability Services is used solely in connection with the student's request for accommodations. Disability Services respects the right to privacy of individuals with disabilities and the confidential nature of the information conveyed verbally or in writing. Disability Services is committed to ensuring that all documentation, including medical, educational, and psychological information, regarding a student's disability is maintained as private. Information will only be given on a need-to-know basis or when state and/or federal law requires release.
Students Without Documentation
Students often contact Disability Services who have not been officially tested or diagnosed for cognitive disabilities such as a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or a psychological disability. Cedarville University does not provide diagnostic services to students who suspect they may have a disability. However, upon request, Disability Services will provide the student with a list of appropriate professionals in the general area who are qualified to conduct a diagnostic evaluation. Insurance companies sometimes will pay for testing, but often they do not. In some cases, local service agencies can provide financial help to students.
Seven Essential Elements of Quality Disability Documentation
The dimensions of good documentation discussed below are suggested as a best practices approach for defining complete documentation that both establishes the individual as a person with a disability and provides a rationale for reasonable accommodations. By identifying the essential dimensions of documentation, institutions allow for flexibility in accepting documentation from the full range of theoretical and clinical perspectives. This approach will enhance consistency and provide stakeholders (students, prospective students, parents, and professionals) with the information they need to assist students in establishing eligibility for services and receiving appropriate accommodations.
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 by a licensed psychologist).
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 or the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health of the World Health Organization are helpful in providing this information, a full clinical description will also convey the necessary information.
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.
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 in accepting older documentation of conditions that are permanent or non-varying is recommended. 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 depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual's condition.
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.
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 current decisions.
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 postsecondary institution has no obligation to provide or adopt recommendations made by outside entities, those that are congruent with the programs, services, and benefits offered by the college or program may be appropriate. When recommendations go beyond equitable and inclusive services and benefits, they may still be useful in suggesting alternative accommodations and/or services.
Reprinted by permission from the Association of Higher Education and Disability.