Documentation of Disability

Documentation serves as one piece of an interactive process that identifies the impact of disability and suggested accommodations.  This, along with communication with Disability Services, faculty or program staff is the way to establish reasonable accommodations.

Acceptable sources of documentation for substantiating a student’s disability and request for particular accommodations can take a variety of forms:

Primary Documentation: Student’s Self-report

The student is a vital source of information regarding how he or she may be “functionally limited by impairment.”xi A student’s narrative of his or her experience of disability, barriers, and effective and ineffective accommodations is an important tool which, when structured by interview or questionnaire and interpreted, may be sufficient for establishing disability and a need for accommodation.

Secondary documentation: Information From External or Third Parties

Documentation from external sources may include educational or medical records, reports and assessments created by health care providers, school psychologists, teachers, or the educational system. This information is inclusive of documents that reflect education and accommodation history, such as Individual Education Program (IEP), Summary Of Performance (SOP), and observationsxii. External documentation will vary in its relevance and value depending on the original context, credentials of the evaluator, the level of detail provided, and the comprehensiveness of the narrative. However, all forms of documentation are meaningful and should be mined for pertinent information.

Information may also take the form of 504 or IEP plan from special education professionals, a letter from a therapist, doctor, rehabilitation counselor, audiologist, or mobility specialist.  The intake, along with documentation, helps our office determine the scope of accommodation needs. In some cases, additional documentation may be required to provide services.

Some guidelines are listed below:

1. Students are responsible for providing this information to Disability Services.  Although we determine accommodations, we do need to meet with students directly and   We can assist in appropriate releases.

2.  Best practices for written documentation has the following parameters and is within the past 3-5 years: 

  • The credentials of the evaluator (knowledgeable about the condition or can diagnose disability) and is provided on the professional’s letterhead.
  • Diagnosis, and a description of the current impact of the condition, particularly as it relates to academics, housing or food service.
  • Which major life activity (e.g., walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, self-care) does the condition substantially limit?
  • Treatments/medications/devices or resources currently prescribed and their potential impact on the condition.
  • Recommended accommodations (and in what ways would the requested accommodation(s) mitigate the impact of the condition?)
  • What are any equally effective alternatives if a student’s first request cannot be provided?

3. What if I don’t have documentation or have difficulty getting it? Again, please meet with Disability Services.  At times, Disability Services may provide accommodations for temporary disability for a limited time. We evaluate each student request on a case by case basis.

4. Provide information early when possible. Accommodations are not required to be retroactively applied; therefore, posted grades on exams, papers, projects or in overall classes are not changed after the fact.  Connecting with our office late in the semester may limit what accommodations are provided, but we’ll work with each student individually.

5. Documentation does not guarantee the requested accommodation. At times, care providers may not have the full scope of the collegiate experience and make recommendations without this scope in mind.   An interactive process between Disability Services, the student, faculty or other staff members is essential in determining what is reasonable.

6.  The documentation/information provided is specific to Macalester and may not be sufficient for other schools, study away environments or high stakes testing (GRE, LSAT, etc).  Additional information may be required for these experiences.  Documentation for housing requests or Assistance Animals (ESAs) may require additional information and complying with specific deadlines to ensure 

If you have a question regarding the required documentation or need information about a disability that is not listed, please contact Disability Services at disabilityservices@macalester.edu

Macalester Health and Wellness/Counseling can refer you to specialized care providers if needed.  Just ask if you need more information!