Disability Determination

No legislation or regulations require that documentation be requested or obtained in order to demonstrate entitlement to legal protections because of disability or to seek reasonable accommodations. The laws and regulations (e.g., ADAAA) acknowledge that postsecondary institutions may, as part of an interactive process, request a reasonable level of documentation. The primary reasons for obtaining and reviewing documentation should be to: (a) gather information from students, (b) consider all available information and materials, (c) determine functional limitations, and (d) identify reasonable services and accommodations.

Sources and Forms of Documentation

The following methods are considered when determining if a student qualifies as a person with a disability and to determine reasonable services and accommodations. Acceptable sources of documentation for substantiating a student’s disability and request for particular accommodations typically includes:

  • Student’s Self-report. The student is a vital source of information regarding how he or she may be “limited by impairment.” A student’s narrative of his or her experience of disability, barriers, and effective and ineffective accommodations is an important tool which, when structured by interview or questionnaire and interpreted, may be sufficient for establishing disability and a need for accommodation.
  • Observation and Interaction. The impressions and conclusions formed by higher education disability professionals during interviews and conversations with students or in evaluating the effectiveness of previously implemented or provisional accommodations are important forms of documentation. Experienced disability professionals should feel comfortable using their observations of students’ language, performance, and strategies as an appropriate tool in validating student narrative and self-report.
  • Information from External or Third Parties. Unless the existence of a disability and the need for accommodation is self-evident, some corroborating documentation is typically needed. Documentation from external sources may include educational or medical records, reports and assessments created by health care providers, school psychologists, teachers, or the educational system. This information is inclusive of documents that reflect education and accommodation history, such as Individual Education Program (IEP), Summary of Performance (SOP), and teacher observations. External documentation will vary in its relevance and value depending on the original context, credentials of the evaluator, the level of detail provided, and the comprehensiveness of the narrative. However, all forms of documentation are meaningful and should be mined for pertinent information.

All documentation must be in English, on letterhead, dated, signed, and include the professional's title, professional credential, and/or license number (if appropriate). It is not considered appropriate for professionals to evaluate members of their families.

Authority to Determine Disability Status

The campus director or designee of the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) shall have the ultimate authority to determine disability status, and the decision shall be subject to the provisions below and to established appeal procedures. If the nature and extent of the disability is evident (e.g., amputee, blind, quadriplegic) the campus director of the program for services to students with disabilities or designee has the authority to determine the presence of a disability, without corroborating documentation.

In determining and or declining services and/or accommodations to qualified students with disabilities, SDRC Accessibility Advisors should consider the student’s disability, documentation, history of accommodations related to the disability, functional limitations, academic requirements and/or program requirements, and other issues that may impact the student’s opportunity to participate in the program or activity or benefit from equal access.

Designees determined by the director include the SDRC Student Services Professionals (Accessibility Advisor, Learning Disability Resource Specialist, and/or Learning Disability Psychologist).

Transfer Students with Disability Status

A student who has transferred and received services from a California Community College, the University of California, or any other regionally accredited postsecondary institution as a student with a disability may be eligible for academic accommodations or support services at a California State University campus providing appropriate documentation is received determining the existence of a disability by the criteria used by the CSU. The SDRC director or designee shall have ultimate authority to determine disability status, subject to established appeal procedures.

Determining Learning Disabilities

The “CSU Guidelines for the Assessment and Determination of Students with Learning Disabilities” conform to national standards and are consistent with those issued by nationally known professional organizations [e.g., AHEAD]. These CSU Guidelines supersede eligibility criteria issued by the Office of the Chancellor in 2009. If any of the laws and regulations, upon which the CSU Guidelines are based are amended, the most current applicable laws and regulations shall apply.

The proper diagnosis of a learning disability involves an orderly, deductive process during which a wide range of information must be considered. Reliance on a single test instrument, no matter how comprehensive it appears, may be misleading. A comprehensive assessment and the resulting diagnostic report will include a diagnostic interview, evaluation of aptitude, academic achievement, information processing, clinical observation/processes, and a diagnosis.

Reasonable accommodations are based on the current impact of the disability on academic performance and not entirely on a diagnosis alone. In most cases this means that a diagnostic evaluation should be age appropriate and relevant to the student’s learning environment, and show the student’s current level of functioning. The final determination of appropriate and reasonable accommodations and support services rests with the CSU campus.

A diagnosis of a learning disability documented by a qualified professional (whether in private practice or in a previous school setting) does not automatically guarantee that identical accommodations and support services will be provided.



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