Document Your Disability

GW is guided by the federal definition of disability, which describes an individual with a disability as someone who has:

  • a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (e.g. speaking, hearing, seeing, walking, learning, etc.)
  • a record of such an impairment
  • is regarded as having such an impairment

In order to establish disability status with the university, Disability Support Services requires you to submit diagnostic documentation with your DSS Registration Form to finalize your eligibility determination and register with DSS.  This documentation should include three core items:

  • indication of your disability
  • discussion of the impact of that disability in a post-secondary academic environment
  • illustration of the connection between the disability and the accommodations you are requesting

The intent of the office is not to exclude students, but rather is to ensure appropriate access to formal accommodations or any auxiliary services. 

On their own, a Summary of Performance (SOP), Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), or a 504 plan are not considered adequate documentation.

If you have any questions about our documentation guidelines, please contact Susan McMenamin.

Submitting Documentation

All documentation should be provided to us as part of your DSS Registration Form and must offer credible evidence from a qualified practitioner that attests to the presence of a disability, while also discussing the impact of that disability in a postsecondary academic environment and recommending specific accommodations to mediate that impact.

To avoid any conflict of interest, DSS will not accept documentation provided by family members or close relatives.

We ask that all documentation be current—we prefer documentation dated within the past 3-5 years—so that we can have an accurate assessment of your recent academic performance as well as any pertinent social or self-care details.  Submitting current documentation allows us to be more effective in our determinations of appropriate disability accommodations.  If you have any questions about the date requirements for your documentation, please send those questions to DSS by email (dss@gwu.edu).  We will be happy to respond to your inquiries.

All documentation must be printed on official letterhead, dated, and signed by the credentialed professional. 

As applicable, your documentation should include overviews of:

  • the presenting problem or concern and relevant history
  • the diagnosis (as described by the DSM, if applicable) and an indication of the duration and severity of disability
  • a discussion of your disability within the context of a postsecondary environment (including, as necessary, a residential setting), indicating relevant effects on personal and academic performance
  • an indication of pertinent side effects from medication (if any) and a discussion of how those side effects affect cognitive functioning, academic  performance and daily living
  • a list of suggested accommodations and a justification for those accommodations

Diagnostic Categories and Documentation Guidelines

The following diagnostic categories offer additional information about the details that your disability documentation should include.  If you have questions about these requirements, or if you feel that your disability status does not neatly align with these categories, please do not hesitate to contact Susan McMenamin for clarification and guidance.

DSS reserves the right to request periodic documentation updates for conditions that may fluctuate.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Documentation should include a comprehensive psychoeducational assessment or neuropsychological assessment completed by a qualified practitioner, customarily a licensed psychologist or neuropsychologist.  This assessment should be signed, dated, and completed on official letterhead.

ADHD documentation must include the following components:

  • Diagnostic Interview, offering a description of the problem(s) reported by the student; the student’s developmental, medical, and psychological histories; family history; and, as appropriate, a discussion of dual diagnosis.  The student’s academic and educational history should also be discussed. 
  • Assessment, demonstrating that the diagnosis is based on a comprehensive review that does not rely on any one test or subtest.  Evidence of a substantial limitation to learning or other aspects of academic performance must be apparent.  The domains to be assessed should include:
    • Aptitude, measured using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) or an equivalent tool
    • Academic Achievement, measured using a comprehensive battery, often the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities, that assesses academic functioning and fluency in relevant areas such as reading, mathematics, and oral and written language
    • Information Processing, measured by assessing short and long-term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, executive functioning, and motor ability
  • Test Scores, provided for all measures, and valid for use with an adolescent or adult population
  • Specific Diagnosis, using current DSM terminology
  • Clinical Summary, containing the following components: an interpretation of the test findings that lead to the diagnosis; a description of the effects of that diagnosis on the student’s academic performance; recommendations for specific accommodations with a clear justification for how those accommodations will mediate academic performance difficulties

Please note that DSS does not endorse unlimited absences or unlimited extended time as appropriate accommodations.

You are encouraged to submit any prior assessments or evaluative reports together with your current documentation.
 

Chronic Health Condition

Documentation should include a signed and dated medical assessment, on letterhead, completed by a physician or health care provider.

We ask that this assessment include three components:

  • a specific diagnosis with a date of onset
  • a clear prognosis (with a clearly defined time frame, as appropriate)
  • recommendations for specific accommodations with a clear justification for how those accommodations will mediate personal and academic performance difficulties

Vague descriptions of general conditions—“allergies,” “breathing complications,” etc.—on their own are not sufficient to allow us to make effective determinations about your eligibility for accommodations.

Likewise, isolated photographs of medicine bottles or scanned prescription pad notes are not sufficient documentation to substantiate eligibility for accommodations.
 

Hearing Disability

Documentation should include a signed and dated audiological evaluation report or audiogram (or both), on letterhead, administered by a physician, audiometrist or audiologist that verifies the extent of hearing loss.

Learning or Cognitive Disability (LD)

Documentation should include a comprehensive psychoeducational assessment or neuropsychological assessment completed by a qualified practitioner, customarily a licensed psychologist or neuropsychologist.  This assessment should be signed, dated, and completed on official letterhead.

LD documentation must include the following components:

  • Diagnostic Interview, offering a description of the problem(s) reported by the student; the student’s developmental, medical, and psychological histories; family history; and, as appropriate, a discussion of dual diagnosis.  The student’s academic and educational history should also be discussed. 
  • Assessment, demonstrating that the diagnosis is based on a comprehensive review that does not rely on any one test or subtest.  Evidence of a substantial limitation to learning or other aspects of academic performance must be apparent.  The domains to be assessed should include:
    • Aptitude, measured using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) or an equivalent tool
    • Academic Achievement, measured using a comprehensive battery, often the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities, that assesses academic functioning and fluency in relevant areas such as reading, mathematics, and oral and written language
    • Information Processing, measured by assessing short and long-term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, executive functioning, and motor ability
  • Test Scores, provided for all measures, and valid for use with an adolescent or adult population
  • Specific Diagnosis, using current DSM terminology
  • Clinical Summary, containing the following components: an interpretation of the test findings that lead to the diagnosis; a description of the effects of that diagnosis on the student’s academic performance; recommendations for specific accommodations with a clear justification for how those accommodations will mediate academic performance difficulties

Please note that DSS does not endorse unlimited absences or unlimited extended time as appropriate accommodations.

You are encouraged to submit any prior assessments or evaluative reports together with your current documentation.

Physical Disability

Documentation should include a signed and dated medical assessment, on letterhead, completed by a physician or health care provider.

We ask that this assessment include three components:

  • a specific diagnosis with a date of onset
  • a clear prognosis (with a clearly defined time frame, as appropriate)
  • recommendations for specific accommodations with a clear justification for how those accommodations will mediate personal and academic performance difficulties

Vague descriptions of general conditions—“hand tremors,” “mobility issues,” etc.—on their own are not sufficient to allow us to make effective determinations about your eligibility for accommodations.

Please note that The George Washington University does not provide personal transportation assistance for travel within each of its campuses.  GW's shuttle services provide ADA accessible transportation solely for the purposes of travelling to and from each university campus.

 

Psychological Disability

Documentation should include a signed and dated mental health assessment, on letterhead, completed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health provider.  We ask that this assessment be dated within the six-month time period prior to the date of DSS registration.  If you have questions about this requirement, please contact Susan McMenamin (include hyperlink).

The assessment must include:

  • a description of the diagnosis, using current DSM terminology as appropriate, that describes presenting symptoms, history of their onset (and a description of their severity and duration), and a clear prognosis
  • a discussion of how the diagnosis affects personal and academic performance in a postsecondary education environment (including matters like academic performance, class attendance, memory and concentration, social interactions, self-care, etc.)
  • a medication management plan (as appropriate) that discusses pertinent side effects or any other treatment details that can affect personal an academic performance (e.g. sleep disturbances, memory complications, etc.)
  • specific accommodation recommendations along with a clear justification for how those accommodations will mediate personal and  academic performance difficulties

Please note that test anxiety is not a diagnosis that is covered by the ADA; therefore we cannot approve accommodations for this diagnosis on its own.

Finally, to the best extent possible, we encourage you to establish a connection with a practitioner local to the DC area.
 

Vision Disability

Documentation should include a signed and dated recent eye examination, on letterhead, from an ophthalmologist or optometrist that verifies the extent of vision loss—be it blindness or low vision.

Temporary Injuries

Important Note: As of the start of the spring 2017 semester, we have begun the process of enhancing this diagnostic category to add additional details about both the registration process for temporary injuries and the nature of the documentation we require to substantiate these registrations.  In the interim, if you are experiencing a temporary injury that requires accommodation, please consult our registration section for instructions about how to register with us.  

We ask that the documentation you provide at the time of registration include a medical assessment completed by a physician or health care provider.  This assessment should indicate a clear diagnosis or description of the injury; a discussion of how that injury will affect personal and academic performance in a postsecondary education environment (including matters like academic performance, class attendance, memory and concentration, social interactions, self-care, etc.); and a clear prognosis that speaks to the anticipated duration of recovery or rehabilitation.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Susan McMenamin.

Register with DSS