Documentation Guidelines

Documentation Guidelines

The Disability Access Center (DAC) recognizes the systemic inequality of access to healthcare in our society and the role culture plays when experiencing disability. Students who are unable to obtain third-party (i.e. tertiary) documentation of their disability as described below, or who are unsure about what qualifies as a disability, should contact our office. We are here to help.


Review of documentation is an important part of the DAC’s interactive process when determining eligibility for accommodations. Consistent with guidelines outlined by the Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), the following types of records identifying a disability may be used in establishing that the student qualifies as an individual with a disability:

  • past accommodations and services from a public or private school
  • past accommodations and services from another college
  • past accommodations and services from a state or high stakes testing organization
  • formal psychological or medical evaluations from a relevant licensed professional
  • letters from past health, education or service providers
  • documentation from the uniformed services

Per AHEAD, documentation falls into three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary documentation.

Primary documentation

Primary documentation includes a student’s self-report, their articulation of their lived disability experience, the disability-related barriers they experience, and their experience of effective and ineffective accommodations. While this documentation alone may be sufficient to establish that a student has a disability, that determination is separate and distinct from the determination of the need for a particular accommodation. When necessary, the Disability Access Center may ask for additional documentation concerning the student's disability and/or the need for accommodations. When such documentation is necessary, it will be limited to documentation evidencing the need for an accommodation.

Secondary documentation 

Secondary documentation includes the access manager’s recorded observations of  interactions with the student throughout the interactive process and conclusions the access manager draws based on their analysis of impacts of any past accommodations.

Tertiary documentation

Tertiary documentation is composed of supporting documentation from external sources. Tertiary documentation may include documentation from doctors, licensed therapists, other medical records, relevant assessments such as neuropsychological learning evaluations, and K-12 records such as IEPs, 504 plans, and teacher observations.

Please note: While third-party documentation may contain relevant information including K-12 or other accommodations, that does not necessarily mean that the same accommodation will be provided at Western.

Tertiary documentation serves three purposes:

  1. To establish that the student can be considered a person with a disability, and therefore eligible for protection against discrimination on the basis of disability.
  2. To supplement information from the student regarding the impacts of disability.
  3. To aid in the development of reasonable accommodations (auxiliary aids and services) designed to facilitate equal access to Western on a case-by-case basis.  

Tertiary documentation should:  

  1. Include a current diagnosis or verification of the nature of a disability
  2. Discuss the functional limitation(s)
  3. Describe effects the disability has on the individual’s ability to access the educational or housing environment
  4. Provide an opinion as to whether the disability/health condition is permanent or temporary
  5. Be from a qualified provider and include:
    • Date
    • Contact information
    • License number
    • Signature or electronic signature

Students with questions about what documentation to provide in applying for accommodations are encouraged to contact the DAC.