Disability Laws & Documentation

  • Disability Laws in Postsecondary Education

    Individuals with disabilities are entitled by law to equal access to postsecondary programs. There are two laws that protect persons with disabilities in postsecondary education: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act Amended Act of 2008.

    The Rehabilitation Act

    Title V of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is generally regarded as the first civil rights legislation on the national level for people with disabilities. Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act is a program access statute. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability in any program or activity offered by an entity or institution receiving federal funds. Section 504 states (as amended):

    “No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States…shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance.”

    This means that colleges and universities receiving federal financial assistance must not discriminate in the recruitment, admission or provision of services for students with disabilities. Students with documented disabilities may request accommodations and/or auxiliary aids from Accommodations (Disability Services), which will enable them to participate in and benefit from post-secondary educational programs and activities. To the greatest extent possible, and within reason, post-secondary institutions must make necessary changes to ensure that academic and other programs are accessible to students with disabilities. (Section 504: The Law and its Impact on Post-Secondary Education.)

    The Americans with Disability Act Amended Act of 2008 (ADAAA)

    The ADAAA is a federal civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The Act says a “student with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment, has a history of impairment, or is believed to have a disability that substantially limits a major life activity such as learning, speaking, seeing, hearing, breathing, walking, caring for oneself, or performing manual tasks.”

    The Americans with Disabilities Act Amended Act of 2008 (ADAAA) extends civil rights protection for people with disabilities to services and activities in the private sector. It also upholds, clarifies, and extends the standards for compliance set forth in Section 504 in areas of a) employment and promotion practices, b) transportation, c) public accommodations, d) services provided by state and local government, and e) telecommunications. The ADAAA affects post-secondary education by refocusing attention on disability access to the institution’s facilities and programs, as well as on employment and promotion issues.

    The goal of the ADAAA is to remove the barriers that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to share in and contribute to American life. Accommodations (Disability Services) encourages students to not feel shy about asking for compliance or speaking out if you have been refused reasonable access to any program or activity because of your disability.

    Equal Access

    All students with disabilities have the right to equal access to information that is presented to them. Equal access also includes the students’ rights to not pay attention in class, forget assignments, forget test dates, fail courses, and to miss class. Students with disabilities should not have advantages given to them that other students do not have.

    ADAAA Section 35.130 General Prohibitions against Discrimination Part (e)(1) Nothing in this part shall be construed to require an individual with a disability to accept an accommodation, aid, service, opportunity, or benefit provided under the ADAAA or this part which such individual chooses not to accept.

  • Documentation Guidelines for Disabilities Services

    Disabilities Services at McLennan Community College adheres to the recommended guidelines as set forth by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). The primary intent of the guidelines that follow is to provide direction as to what constitutes the proper components of the documentation that are necessary in order to validate a disability and the need for accommodation. The information and documentation that establishes a disability should be comprehensive in order to make it possible for a student to be served in a postsecondary (college) setting. The provision of reasonable accommodations is based upon the assessment of the current impact of the disability on a student’s academic functioning. (For further information, please refer to the AHEAD website.)

    I. Qualifications of the Evaluator

    Professionals conducting assessments, rendering diagnoses of a disability and making recommendations for appropriate accommodations will be qualified and licensed to do so. Comprehensive training and direct experience in the area of diagnosis and treatment with the adolescent and adult population as it pertains to the presenting disability is essential. The name, title and professional credentials of the evaluator, including information about license or certification as well as the area of specialization, employment and state/province in which the individual practices will be clearly stated in the documentation.

    II. Documentation

    The provision of all reasonable accommodations and services is based upon assessment of the impact of the student’s disabilities on his or her academic performance at a given time in the student’s life. Therefore, documentation shall be no more than three years old. It is in the student’s best interest to provide recent and appropriate documentation relevant to the student’s learning environment. All reports will be on letterhead, typed, dated, signed and otherwise legible.

    Ill. Substantiation of the Disability

    Documentation should validate the need for services based on the individual’s current level of functioning in an educational setting.

    A school plan, such as an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 plan is insufficient documentation but can be included as part of a more comprehensive assessment battery.

    The comprehensive assessment battery and the resulting diagnostic report should include a diagnostic interview, assessment of aptitude, academic achievement, information processing and a diagnosis.

    1. Diagnostic Interview
      1. The evaluation report will include a summary of a comprehensive diagnostic interview. Relevant information regarding the student’s academic and developmental history, as well as adaptation and learning processes in elementary, secondary and postsecondary education should be reported.
      2. The diagnostician, using professional judgment as to which areas are relevant, should conduct a diagnostic interview which may include: a description of the presenting problem(s); developmental, medical, psychosocial and employment histories; family history, including primary language of the home and the student’s current level of English fluency (if family of origin is monolingual or bilingual); and a discussion of dual diagnosis where indicated.
    2. Assessment
      1. The neuropsychological, psychological or psycho-educational evaluation for the diagnosis of any specific learning disability must provide clear and specific evidence that a learning disability does or does not exist.
      2. Assessment, and any resulting diagnosis, will consist of and be based on a comprehensive assessment battery and must not rely on any one instrument, test or sub-test.
      3. Evidence of a substantial limitation to learning or other major life activity must be provided.
      4. A complete standardized intellectual assessment (IQ test) with all sub-tests and standard scores reported along with a comprehensive academic achievement battery with all sub-tests and standard scores reported for those sub-tests must be included. The battery will include current levels of academic functioning in relevant areas such as reading (decoding and comprehension), mathematics, processing speed, and oral and written language.
      5. Specific areas of information processing (e.g. short- and long-term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual perception/processing, processing speed, executive functioning and motorability) will be included in the assessment battery.
      6. Informal observations of the student during the test administration may be included as well as other non-standard measures that may help determine a learning disability and differentiate it from co-existing neurological and/or psychiatric disorders.
    3. Specific Diagnosis
      1. The diagnostician will use clear and direct language in the diagnosis and documentation.
      2. When a learning disability does not exist, the evaluator must state that conclusion in the report. Individual “learning styles,” “learning differences,” “academic problems” and “test difficulty or anxiety” in and of themselves do not constitute a learning disability.
    4. Test Scores
      1. Standard scores and percentiles (when appropriate) will be provided for all normative measures along with grade equivalents.
      2. Results will reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the student is requesting the accommodation.
      3. The profile of the student’s strengths and weaknesses will be shown to relate to the functional limitations that may necessitate accommodations.
      4. Tests must be reliable, valid and standardized for use with adolescents/adults across diverse populations.
      The test findings and conclusion should document both the nature and severity of the learning disability.
    5. Clinical Summary
      1. An indication of a substantial limitation to learning or other major life activity presented by the learning disability and the degree to which it impacts the individual in the learning context for which accommodations are being requested will be stated.
      2. The summary will indicate how the patterns of the student’s cognitive ability, achievement and information processing reflect the presence of a learning disability.
      3. The evaluation will have ruled out alternative explanations for academic problems such as a result of poor education, poor motivation and/or study skills, emotional problems, attention problems (unless an ADHD diagnosis is rendered) and cultural/language differences.
      4. The evaluator will provide a rationale for why specific accommodations are needed and how the effects of the specific disability are accommodated.
    IV. Recommendations for Accommodations

    The final determination for providing appropriate and reasonable accommodations will rest with the institution and its assigned agent. It is important to recognize that accommodation needs can change over time and are not always identified through the initial diagnostic process. A prior history of accommodation does not, in and of itself, warrant the provision of a similar accommodation.

    The diagnostic report should include specific recommendations for accommodations as well as an explanation as to why each accommodation is recommended and how this will address the student’s needs.

  • FERPA and Confidentiality

    In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), all information pertaining to a student’s education record will remain confidential, unless the requested information falls within FERPA guidelines.

    All clinical information pertaining to a student’s diagnosis of a psychiatric, psychological, or emotional disorder and treatment shall be kept in strict confidence in accordance with the American Psychological Association ethical guidelines, unless the student presents as a danger to him or herself or to others.

    Duty to Report and Limitations of Confidentiality

    While McLennan Community College and Accommodations (Disability Services) will strictly observe a student’s confidentiality as stated above, McLennan Community College, Accommodations (Disability Services) maintain the right to break confidentiality when information is made available by the student that includes harm to self, harm to others, or the planning of the commission of a crime.

    Final determination for providing appropriate and reasonable accommodations will rest with the institution and its assigned agent. McLennan Community College and Accommodations (Disability Services) reserve the right to deny services to any individual who presents a danger to themselves or to others, or who make their intentions known to harm others and will take the necessary preventive and legal actions to avoid any mishaps.

    Disability Disclosure

    Students who request accommodations or services must make their disabilities known to Accommodations (Disability Services). This office has the responsibility to verify the documentation (not to obtain documentation) before any accommodations or services are provided. If the student fails to disclose his or her disability, this institution has no obligation to provide any requested accommodations or services.