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. For various issues the following links provide guidelines about the kind of expert and types of detailed information that are expected: Learning Disability Guidelinesdocument, ADHD Guidelinesdocument, Hearing Issue Guidelinesdocument, Physical/Mobility/Other Health Guidelinesdocument, Psychological/Neurological/Mental Health Guidelinesdocument, Brain Injury Guidelinesdocument, Vision Issue Guidelinesdocument.

UWRF does not provide an expert or pay for any related costs.

NOTE: After it's submitted documentation may receive little consideration if the student hasn't provided Ability Services with an obvious indication this kind of personal attention is wanted. That can happen when the person who sends the documentation is a parent, teacher, doctor, or anyone else who's trying to be helpful, and the student hasn't been very involved in the process. The staff of Ability Services need an indication that the student actually does want this kind of attention.

Unfortunately, Ability Services often receives documentation that isn’t sufficient. This is because the experts who write documentation are usually very busy people. They can't always remember everything about a student's issue or have time to search their records for the details. It's also likely the experts don't fully understand why Ability Services needs certain kinds of information. And they can even feel uncomfortable about sending this kind of personal information in the first place.

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 explain some important things that should often be included in documentation. Then give the form to the expert and ask to have the second side filled out. Unfortunately, the Collaborative Documentation Form may not work for issues that require statistical information to understand them, 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 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.