Guidelines for Documenting a Psychological Disability

The following guidelines are intended to help define the type of information needed to substantiate eligibility and to support reasonable requests for accommodation(s). Jefferson Community College students, either incoming or enrolled, who believe they may be eligible to receive accommodation(s) based on a diagnosed, specific psychological disability must submit written documentation (PDF) to verify their eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

Psychological disabilities “…[c]omprise a range of conditions characterized by emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral dysfunction. Diagnoses are provided in the DSM-IV-TR or the ICD-10. Note that not all conditions listed in the DSM-IV-TR are disabilities or even impairments for the purposes of the ADAAA. Therefore, a diagnosis of a disability does not, in and of itself, meet the definition of a disability necessitating reasonable accommodations under the ADAAA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973” (Educational 3).

According to the ADAAA, major life activities are:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Standing
  • Thinking
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Lifting
  • Communicating
  • Seeing
  • Speaking
  • Working
  • Hearing
  • Breathing
  • The operation of a major bodily function
  • Eating
  • Learning
  • Sleeping
  • Reading
  • Walking
  • Concentrating

Reasonable accommodation is an effort on the part of the College to provide equal access to its programs and services while maintaining the essential nature of the College’s programs. Accommodation(s) is determined on an individual basis as substantiated by diagnosis and impact to major life functions. Documentation review, accommondation(s), and student support are provided through the Scanlon Learning and Success Center Disability Specialist.

Evaluator Qualifications

The professional conducting assessments, rendering diagnosis of specific disabilities, and recommending reasonable and appropriate accommodations should be qualified to do so (i.e. ADHD by a psychologist, depression by a clinical social worker, etc.). The name, title, and professional credentials of the clinician, as well as information about his or her licenses or certifications, area of specialization, and location of employment or practice, should be included in the documentation. In addition, the evaluator should not be related by blood or marriage to the student being evaluated.

Timeliness of Testing

The purpose of testing is to determine a student’s current level of function and need for accommodation. Evaluation should be current (within the past three years and age normed). Updates are required every six to twelve months. The updates can be provided by the student’s counselor, but original testing needs to be completed by a qualified professional.

Diagnosis and Reporting Criteria

The original evaluation should be comprehensive and should provide clear and specific evidence that a psychological disability exists using appropriate diagnostic tests. The clinician should also use direct language in the diagnosis and explanation for recommended accommodation(s). Under the ADAAA, terms such as “individual learning styles,” “learning differences,” “academic problems,” and “test difficulty or test anxiety” do not substantiate a disability. Terminology such as “suggests” or “is indicative of” should also be avoided.

Documentation for a psychological disability will, therefore, include a specific diagnosis based on the DSM-IV-TR or ICD-10 diagnostic criteria and will describe the degree to which the diagnosed disorder impacts a specific, major life activity or activities for the individual being evaluated. A diagnosis in and of itself does not automatically qualify an individual as having a disability. A prior history of accommodation without proof of current need does not warrant accommodation.

Medications prescribed to treat psychological conditions may also manifest physical and/or cognitive side effects that may be considered disabling. Therefore, the limitations currently experienced by the individual under evaluation that are caused by such side effects and that pertain to the academic setting should also be clearly articulated.

Requested Accommodation(s)

In order for services to be provided at the college level, specific requests for accommodation(s) must be clearly articulated and accompanied by an explanation for each.

For additional information, please consult the Jefferson Community College Catalog for sections addressing disability policy and disabled student services. If you need further clarification of, or have questions in regard to, these guidelines, please contact Tanya Hoistion, Disability Specialist, in the Scanlon Learning and Success Center, at 315-786-2335 or thoistion@sunyjefferson.edu, Jules Center, Room 6-202.

The Disability Specialist is the College’s approved person for deciding reasonable and appropriate accommodation based on the documentation recommendation, the disability, and the essential skill for each course. Accommodations are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Individuals with concerns about the evaluation process or the accommodations provided by the College may seek assistance, review, and appeal through Jefferson’s ADAAA/504 Compliance Officer, at 315-786-2401, Lansing Building, room 1-109.

Work Cited

Educational Testing Service. Guidelines for Documentation of Psychiatric Disabilities in Adolescents and Adults. Princeton: Educational Testing Service Office of Disability Policy, 2001. Print.