University of Vermont’s Best Practices for the Review of Documentation and the Determination of Accommodations

The University of Vermont (UVM) aspires to develop a campus environment that is genuinely accessible in all areas.  We strive for all UVM students to be healthy, engaged, and successful; therefore, it is important to remove physical, academic, programming, and attitudinal barriers that could create obstacles to student success.  This important work includes assessing a student’s narrative and documentation to certify if a student has a disability and to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

Students are responsible to identify themselves to Student Accessibility Services to provide documentation, and to request accommodations during a meeting with an SAS staff member.   Please refer to the SAS website for Documentation Guidelines.

Review of Documentation

SAS uses the following guidelines in evaluating disability documentation.  Disability documentation establishes a disability and provides adequate information on the functional impact(s) of the disability so that effective accommodations can be identified.
Some general guidelines include [but are not limited to]:

The credentials of the evaluator(s) who has no personal relationship with the individual being evaluated

Documentation must be completed by a licensed or otherwise properly credentialed professional who has appropriate training and experience.  A good match between the credentials of the individual making the diagnosis and the disability being reported is expected (e.g., an orthopedic limitation might be documented by a physician but not by a licensed psychologist).

A diagnostic statement identifying the disability

Whenever possible, provide a diagnostic statement identifying the disability and the date of the most current diagnostic evaluation.

History of diagnosis

Documentation should also include, whenever possible, the date of the original diagnosis.

A description of the diagnostic methodology used

Documentation, whenever possible, should include a description of the current diagnostic criteria, evaluation methods, procedures, tests and dates of administration, as well as a clinical narrative interpretation. Where appropriate to the nature of the disability (e.g., learning and cognitive disorders) it can be helpful if the report contains both summary data and specific tests scores.

A description of the current functional limitations

Whenever possible, provide information on how the disability currently impacts the individual. A combination of the individual’s narrative and results of the evaluation procedures affords the most comprehensive approach to fully documenting impact. It is helpful if documentation is thorough enough to demonstrate whether and how a major life activity is, or activities are, substantially limited by providing a clear sense of the severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the disability.
For certain types of disabilities/diagnoses/conditions, SAS requests that documentation generally be as recent as possible and use adult measures.  SAS may use professional judgment to accept older documentation or to request new documentation.  If new or updated documentation is requested, accommodations may be provided provisionally in the interim, on a case-by-case basis, while the student obtains the necessary updated documentation.

A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability

Documentation should provide information on expected changes in the functional impact of the disability over time and context, if the disability is cyclical or episodic in nature (e.g., bipolar disorder, some chronic medical conditions).  If the disability is not stable, information on interventions (including the individual’s own strategies) for exacerbations and recommended timelines for reevaluation can be most helpful.

A description of current and past accommodations, services and/or medications

Whenever possible, provide a description of both current and past accommodations, services, medications, auxiliary aids and assistive devices, 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 can be helpful.

Recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services

Recommendations from professionals with a history of working with the student can provide valuable information for review and planning. Any recommended accommodations and services should be logically related to the student’s functional limitations.

Determination of Accommodations

SAS determines reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities based on the following principles:

  • All documentation will be reviewed on an individual, case-by-case basis where the current impact of the disability is assessed through a process that allows for consideration of how the disability impacts the student’s participation.
  • An interview with an SAS staff member to clarify test results, conclusions, or recommendations regarding a disability, its impact, and prior accommodations provides important information to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations.
  • Determination of accommodations is an interactive process where the student with a disability is a fundamental source of information on appropriate accommodations that maximize access.  Faculty members are also part of the interactive process to insure that academic and/or technical standards are maintained within a course.
  • Determination of a specific disability does not translate directly into specific accommodations since reasonable accommodations are individually determined and will be based on the functional impact of the condition and its likely interaction with the particular course or academic program (course assignment, program requirements, physical design, etc.).  As a result, students with the “same” disability diagnosis may not have the same accommodations.
  • Disability documentation will be treated in a confidential manner and, absent extraordinary circumstances, shared only with a student’s permission.