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 this paperwork that decisions are made to allow the student certain types of accommodations. The documentation should be written by an appropriate kind of expert. It should present enough detailed information that a reader who is not an expert can: 1.) Confirm the issue currently exists; 2.) Know how the issue will substantially impact the student at UWRF; and, 3.) Understand the kinds of accommodation a student must have for equal access and opportunity. The following links provide general guidelines for the type of expert and kinds of information that should be associated with documentation about: Learning Disability or Cognitive Processing Issuedocument, ADHDdocument, Hearing Issuedocument, Physical/Mobility/Other Health Issuedocument, Psychological/Neurological/Mental Health Issuesdocument, Brain Injurydocument, Vision Issuedocument.

UWRF does not pay any costs or provide the kind of expert that's needed to arrange documentation.

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

Unfortunately, Ability Services often receives documentation that isn’t sufficient. This happens because the experts who can write documentation are usually very busy people. They typically can't remember a lot of details about a student's issue and have little time to search their records for the details. 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 someone might even attempt to use the information against the 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 Documentation Formdocument. On the front side you can attempt to explain some important things that should usually be described in documentation. Then give the form to the expert and ask him or her to complete the second side. Unfortunately, the Collaborative Documentation Form (alone) may not work for issues that are usually explained (in part) with 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 if it could work well for your situation.

Here are some other common problems that can make it difficult for Ability Services to work with documentation:

  • It may be copied directly from a medical file with clinical terminology that's hard to understand.
  • It may explain the nature of the student's issue without stating a need for specific types of accommodationsF.
  • It may state a need for specific accommodations but not adequately explain the nature of the student's issue.
  • It may present information on all the important topics, but with statements that suggest the student's issue is really only a minor inconvenience.
  • It may may be written in a very general way, as if the author was writing an article about a particular type of issue, versus attempting to explain the distinct nature of the student's issue.

Individual Educational Plans (IEP), 504 Plans, Transition Plans (ITP), and a Summary of Performances (SOP) are some common kinds of documentation written in K-12 schools before students graduate from high school. Often this kind of documentation doesn't have enough information. The paperwork frequently provides few details about a student's issue. Or there may be enough details but not an indication the writer really is an expert on the issue. Or most of the detailed information may be rather old and not confirm the need for accommodation still exists. 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 need for specific kinds of accommodations.

Arranging and submitting adequate documentation often takes considerable time. When students submit documentation that doesn’t seem adequate the process of seeking accommodation can become dormant until additional documentation is received. Students who want to attempt this process should start it as soon as possible.

Advice about arranging adequate documentation is available from Ability Services (715-425-0740). Students who cannot successfully complete the formal process may request referrals to other potential kinds of support.

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