Morgan Community College has adopted the recommendations of AHEAD (Association on Higher Education And Disability) for documentation requirements and practice. It follows:
Acceptable sources of documentation for substantiating a student’s disability and request for particular accommodations can take a variety of forms:
The student is a vital source of information regarding how he or she may be “limited by impairment.” 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.
The impressions and conclusions formed by higher education disability professionals during interviews and conversations with students or in evaluating the effectiveness of previously implemented or provisional accommodations are important forms of documentation. Experienced disability professionals should feel comfortable using their observations of students’ language, performance, and strategies as an appropriate tool in validating student narrative and self-report.
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 teacher observations. 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.
The rationale for seeking information about a student’s condition is to support the higher education professional in establishing disability, understanding how disability may impact a student, and making informed decisions about accommodations. Professional judgment is an essential component of this process.
Ensuring that “accommodations” provide effective access requires a deliberative and collaborative process that is responsive to the unique experience of each individual, as advised by the ADA. The disability resource professional should engage in a structured exchange with the student to explore previous educational experiences, past use of accommodations, and what has been effective and ineffective in providing access. The weight given to the individual’s description will be influenced by its clarity, internal consistency, and congruency with the professional’s observations and available external documentation. It is often possible to evaluate whether a requested accommodation is reasonable or not with minimal reliance on external documentation. This is true even if the student has never received formal accommodations or recently acquired a disability and is seeking guidance to determine accommodations that might be effective. However, if the student is unable to clearly describe how the disability is connected to a barrier and how the accommodation would provide access, the institution may need to request third party documentation focused on illustrating that connection. Finally, the documentation process must be accessible: if a student’s disability impacts his or her ability to clearly describe the need for accommodation, the office must consider flexibility in its processes.
In essence, each student’s situation is unique. And, when a student comes in to meet with the ADA Coordinator about their disability and receiving accommodations, it could be as simple as that conversation. The ADA Coordinator may, or may not, request tertiary (or third party) documentation for clarity of service and/or help in making a decision about reasonable accommodations. Each situation will determine the physical documents that are, or are not, needed. No student should avoid or delay meeting with the ADA Coordinator due to the lack of paperwork on their disability.
Documentation accepted at this college might not be accepted by other institutions, agencies and/or programs (e.g. testing agencies, licensure exams, certification programs, universities, The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, etc.). Please check with the specific institutions and/or programs to determine their documentation requirements.
Association on Higher Education And Disability materials used with permission. (2012 April). Supporting accommodation requests: Guidance on documentation practices. Huntersville, NC: Association on Higher Education And Disability. Accessed from: http://www.ahead.org/resources/documentation_guidance