Documenting a Disability

As part of the self-disclosure process students are expected to make an appointment at Ability Services and submit a written report about the disability. The report is called documentation. It’s largely from this paperwork that decisions are made for allowing individual students specific types of accommodations. The documentation should be written by an appropriate expert. It should allow a reader who is not an expert to realize that a disability currently exists, and to understand how it will impact the student. The kind of expert that’s needed for this paperwork depends on the type of disability; often it should be a doctor. UWRF does not provide the expert or pay for any related costs. See the written guidelines (below) for various types of disabilities: Learning Disability Guidelinesdocument, ADHD Guidelinesdocument, Hearing Issue Guidelinesdocument, Physical/Mobility/Other Health Guidelinesdocument, Psychological/Neurological/Mental Health Guidelinesdocument, Brain Injury Guidelinesdocument, Vision Issue Guidelinesdocument.

Documentation received, without an initial request for potential services from the student, may not receive full consideration.

Unfortunately, Ability Services often receives documentation that isn’t sufficient. This could be because the experts who write documentation:

  • Are typically very busy individuals and serve many people
  • Time limitations prevent them from finding details in their records
  • May not have a strong understanding of the documentation process
  • May have concerns about sending your personal information to a college

For some kinds of disabilities you may be able to save the expert time and acquire more detailed documentation by using a convenient form called the Collaborative Documentation Formdocument. On its front-side you may explain certain details that an expert often doesn't automatically remember. You can then give the form to the expert and ask him or her to fill out the back-side. Unfortunately, this form may not be sufficient for disabilities that require a lot of numerical measurements to explain them, such as a Learning Disability. It's recommended you should contact Ability Services before attempting to use the Collaborative Documentation Form and ask if it could work for your situation.

Here are some other common problems with documentation. It might be paperwork:

  • Copied directly from a medical file with clinical language that's hard to understand
  • With no explanation about a need for accommodations at college
  • That explains the need for specific accommodations but doesn’t adequately indicate there is a disability
  • Information on all the important topics using statements that suggest the disability issue is really only a minor inconvenience

For many disabilities the best documentation could be paperwork from a doctor composed solely for the purpose of establishing an option to have accommodations at college while paying close attention to the documentation guidelines described in the links in the upper-right corner of this page.

Other problems are common with several types of documentation from public schools that can be called an Individual Educational Plan (IEP), a 504 Plan, a Transition Plan (ITP), or a Summary of Performance (SOP). These plans often lack details about the disability, or the author may not actually be an expert on the issue, or there isn’t enough current information. Students with such a plan should submit a copy to Ability Service, but may also need additional documentation to confirm there is a need for accommodations.

If students submit documentation that doesn’t have enough information the process of seeking accommodations becomes dormant until they arrange additional documentation. Getting adequate documentation often takes considerable time to accomplish. Students who want to attempt this process should get it started as soon as possible.

Advice about arranging adequate documentation is available from Ability Services (715-425-4555). Students who cannot successfully complete the formal process may request referrals to other potential kinds of support.


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
410 S. 3rd Street, River Falls WI 54022 USA
Campus Information 715-425-3911