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. The report is 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 expert. It should also contain the kinds of detailed information that can allow a reader who is not an expert to: 1.) Confirm the issue currently exists; 2.) Know how the issue may have a substantial impact on the student at UWRF; and, 3.) Understand the kinds of accommodation the student should have for equal access and opportunity. Through the following links guidelines are available regarding the kind of expert and detailed information that's expected for some general categories of issues : 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 such an expert or pay for any related costs.

NOTE: Any documentation that Ability Services receives may not receive full consideration if there is not an obvious  indication the student actually wants this kind of personal attention. This can happen when the person who sends the documentation is a parent, teacher, doctor, or someone else who's trying to be helpful, but the student hasn't been very involved in the process. The Ability Services office needs some kind of indication the student does want this kind of attention.

Unfortunately, Ability Services often receives documentation that isn’t sufficient. This happens be because the experts who write documentation are usually very busy people. They can't always remember everything about a student's issue and may not have time to search their records for details. It's likely they don't fully understand why Ability Services needs certain kinds of detailed information. The experts can also feel uncomfortable about sending a student's personal information to a university.

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 its front side you can explain certain details that an expert often won't automatically explain. Then give the form to the expert and ask to have the second side filled out. Unfortunately, the form may not work for issues that require a lot of numerical information to understand, such as a Learning Disability. It's recommended you should contact Ability Services before attempting to use the Collaborative Documentation Form and ask if it could work for your situation.

Here are some other common problems with the paperwork Ability Services can receive:

  • It could be copied directly from a medical file with clinical language that's hard to understand.
  • It could explain the nature of the issue but not the reason it creates a need specific types of accommodations at UWRF.
  • It could explain the need for specific accommodations at UWRF but not indicate the nature of the issue.
  • It may present information on all the important topics using statements that suggest the student's issue is really only a minor inconvenience.
  • It may be the kind of rather general paperwork that's intended to teach someone about a given type of issue, versus written to explain how the issue exists for a specific student.

An Individual Educational Plan (IEP), 504 Plan, Transition Plan (ITP), and Summary of Performance (SOP) from public schools often don't have enough information. These plans often lack details about a student's issue, or it's not clear the writer actually is an expert on the issue, or there isn’t enough current information. Anyone with such a plan should submit a copy to Ability Service, but may also need additional documentation to confirm there is a need for accommodations.

If students submit documentation that doesn’t have enough information the process of seeking accommodation can become dormant until they submit additional documentation. Arranging and submitting adequate documentation often takes considerable time. Students who want to attempt this process should get it started 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.


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
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Campus Information 715-425-3911