Accessibility Resources - Documentation Guidelines and Testing Costs
In the context of postsecondary education, the student's documentation should provide the College with an understanding of the individual's disability and enough information to anticipate how the disability's current impact on the student is expected to interact with the College's structure of courses, testing methods, program requirements, etc. Because the provision of reasonable accommodations and services is based on an assessment of the current impact of the student's disabilities on academic performance in a specific academic program, it is in the student's best interest to provide current and appropriate documentation. Additionally, students are encouraged to review the skills and abilities the College has determined to be essential to law study, outlined in Reasonable Accommodations and Standards for Law Study (PDF). The College of Law reserves the right to require more recent documentation, especially if the student or the student's academic performance indicates that the impact of the disability may have changed.
The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) has previously identified essential elements for documentation. While accommodation determinations are made on a case-by-case basis and the type and quantity of documentation necessary for each individual will vary, it is recommended that documentation include the following elements. If you are seeking new documentation, this listing may be helpful to discuss with the professional providing your documentation to ensure that important elements are included. If you are unsure if your documentation is sufficient, please discuss your questions with the ADA Coordinator.
- Current and Relevant. Documentation should reflect the current impact of disabilities. Learning assessments must be based upon adult-level learning and should take into account the academic demands of higher education, particularly the rigor of the law school environment.
- Credentials of the Evaluator(s). 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). 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. Documentation should reflect these credentials, being provided on letterhead. Please note that information provided on a prescription pad is not sufficient.
- A diagnostic statement. A clear diagnostic statement that describes how the condition was diagnosed (including criteria and testing used) and details the typical progression or prognosis of the condition. While diagnostic codes from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) or the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organization are helpful in providing this information, a full clinical description will also convey the necessary information.
- Evidence of Existing Impairment and Current Functional Limitations. Information on how the disabling condition(s) currently impacts the individual provides for both establishing the existence of 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 the 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).
- Expected Progression or Stability. 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.
- 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.
- Recommendations for Academic Accommodations. Specific recommendation with an explanation of the rationale for each recommendation as related to the specific functional limitations, especially academic performance, is preferred. While the College is not required 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.
Documentation Testing Costs
The student is responsible for providing initial documentation and bears the costs associated with obtaining it. If the initial documentation is incomplete or inadequate to determine the existence of a disability, its present extent, or appropriate accommodations, the ADA Coordinator may request supplemental documentation or assessment of the disability. The cost of the supplementary documentation or assessment is the student's responsibility.
The College of Law does not conduct testing for disabilities and all expenses incurred for the testing are the responsibility of the student. Securing appropriate documentation can be a costly and lengthy process. Consider talking with your medical insurance, as they may cover a portion or all of the testing costs. In addition, some teaching hospitals or psychology training sites offer low-fee testing services. The ADA Coordinator can also provide a referral list of local professionals upon request.
The College of Law may, at its own expense, require a second opinion regarding any claimed disability or the need for reasonable accommodation. Such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis after examining the student's documentation. If the ADA Coordinator requires a second opinion—which may include getting a second opinion regarding the documentation or a reevaluation of the disability—the College of Law may select the practitioner and will bear the cost of the second assessment.
The ADA Coordinator may also require a student to provide additional competent medical documentation evidencing the need for continued academic accommodations any time that it appears that the student's disability has substantially changed in character, or if a student who has been granted academic accommodations requests additional accommodations not supported by previously provided documentation. Again, the student bears the cost of providing such documentation.