Documentation of Disability

Documentation of a disability is typically required for ongoing accommodations at Macalester to determine the extent of functional limitations (especially if the nexus between the requested accommodation and disability is not clear).

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.

Information about a student’s disability should be from a qualified professional that is knowledgeable about specifics of your functional limitations or who can diagnose the disability. This might be a 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.

The guidelines on documentation are listed below:

1. Students are responsible for providing this information to Disability Services.  Although we determine accommodations, we are generally unable to obtain documentation on a student’s behalf.   We can assist in appropriate releases.

2.  Best practices for 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? Please meet with Disability Services.  We can assist in professional referrals or provide appropriate next steps.  At times, Disability Services may provide accommodations for temporary disability for a limited time until more formal documentation can be obtained or other appropriate options are implemented. 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 accommodation options as well.

5. Documentation does not guarantee the requested accommodation. At times, care providers may not have the full scope of the collegiate experience and may recommend things 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. Disability Services reserves the right to ask for a release to speak with a care provider, request additional documentation or decline documentation if it is not complete or appropriate for the request.

7.  The documentation 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) requires additional verification and specific deadlines. 

If you have a question regarding the required documentation or need information about a disability that is not listed, please contact Disability Services at 651-696-6974.

Helpful Specific Guidelines

Macalester Health and Wellness/Counseling have developed a list of care providers, counselors and other professionals that can assist with student care or referral to specialized care providers.  Just ask if you need more information!