UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Documenting a Disability

As part of the self-disclosure process a student is expected to submit a written report to the Ability Services office about a difficult medical, physical, sensory, or brain related issue. This kind of summary is often called documentation. It’s largely from the information in documentation that decisions are made to allow a student specific types of accommodations. It should be written by an appropriate expert and should present enough detailed information that a reader who is not an expert can: 1.) Understand the nature of the student's issue and confirm it exists; 2.) Know how the issue could have a substantially negative impact on the student at UWRF; and, 3.) Understand the kinds of accommodation that will be needed for equal access and opportunity. UWRF does not pay any costs or provide the kind of expert that's needed to arrange documentation.

Arranging and submitting adequate documentation often takes considerable time. Advice for arranging documentation is available from Ability Services (715-425-0740). Students who want to attempt this process should start it as soon as possible. When documentation is submitted but doesn't seem to adequately confirm a need for accommodation the process can become dormant until additional documentation is received. Students who cannot successfully complete the formal process may request referrals to other potential kinds of support.

The following links provide guidelines for the kind of documentation to submit in regard to the different kinds of issues:

 

ADHD      Learning Disability, or Cognitive or Information Processing       Neurological, Psychological, or Mental Health

Physical, Mobility, or Other Health Issue      Brain Injury       Vision       Hearing


NOTE: Documentation that's submitted may receive little or no consideration if the student hasn't seemed to indicate the Ability Services office has permission to focus on such a personal issue. Usually anyone else who's trying to support the student doesn't have the authority to grant that kind of permission. This is just one of many reasons the student should be centrally involved in the process of seeking accommodation.

Unfortunately, Ability Services often receives documentation that isn’t sufficient. This may happen because the experts who can write documentation are usually very busy people. They might not remember many details about a student's issue or have much time to search their records for the information. It's also likely the experts don't fully understand why Ability Services wants to receive certain kinds of personal information. And they can worry that if certain details are described, the university might automatically attempt to limit the student's opportunities or access (which would be against the law).

Individual Educational Plans (IEP), 504 Plans, Transition Plans (ITP), and Summary of Performances (SOP) often don't work very well. They are common kinds of documentation written by staff in high schools. Typically the plans indicate what the school did for a student, but provide few details about the student's issue. Or they may provide details but be written by school staff who aren't actually experts on the issue. The plans may also only explain circumstances that existed years ago, without confirming there is still a need for accommodation. Anyone with such a plan should submit a copy to Ability Service, but may also need to send additional documentation to confirm there's a strong reason to allow specific kinds of accommodation.

These other common problems can make it difficult for Ability Services to work with documentation:

  • The paperwork is copied directly from a medical file  with clinical terminology that's difficult to understand.
  • It may explain the nature of the student's issue but  not explain a need for specific types of accommodations.
  • It may state a need for specific accommodations but not adequately explain the nature of the student's issue.
  • The information may be written with statements that   suggest the student's issue is largely a minor circumstance, versus something that will substantially create a need for accommodations.
  • It may be written in a very general way, as if the  author was writing an essay about a particular type of issue, versus  explaining the exact circumstances that apply to a specific student.

For some kinds of issues it's possible to improve the likelihood  of arranging  adequate documentation by using a relatively convenient form called the Collaborative Document Form. On the front side you could explain some important details that a very busy expert might leave out. Then ask the expert to complete the second side. Unfortunately, using only the Collaborative Documentation Form may not work for issues where a thorough explanation relies on a good amount of statistical information, such as a Learning Disability. Before attempting to use the Collaborative Documentation Form it's a good idea to contact Ability Services and ask how well it could probably work well for your issue.

Contact Us

Ability Services
ability.services@uwrf.edu
Phone: 715-425-0740
Fax: 715-425-0742
M-F, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
129 Hagestad Hall