Disability Documentation and Accommodations


The requirements for documentation in colleges and universities are different than the requirements in high school.  High schools provide accommodations based on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.  Colleges and universities require that you prove eligibility for accommodations based on psychoeducational, psychiatric, or medical documentation from a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or medical provider.   Your high school documentation may include such a report, and this is what you need to submit to Disability Support Resources.

Documentation must be age-appropriate, meaning it must have been written within the last 5 years.

Documentation is needed not only to prove eligibility for accommodations, but to help determine the specific accommodations that you will use while a student at Grand Valley State University.

The DSR Registration webpage discusses Grand Valley State University’s requirements for written documentation, and also lists several forms that make this process simpler.   If you don’t have written documentation, your care provider can complete and submit the appropriate form. 

Ideally DSR would have your documentation prior to your first appointment with a DSR advisor.  This will allow the advisor to review it before the meeting.  You may bring documentation with you to the meeting if you are unable to submit it prior.

DSR Documentation

DSR Documentation Video


Your accommodations will be determined in a meeting with the DSR advisor, and must be supported by your documentation.  Your accommodations can be modified later to include other accommodations, if necessary.  Some accommodations you receive in college may be different than those you used in high school. 

Some commonly used accommodations include extended time for writing an exam, written materials in electronic format, sign language interpreters, captioned video, and the use of notetaking aids.

DSR Accommodation Memo

Academic accommodations are determined for each student on an individual basis by the DSR advisor, and designed through an interactive process with the student.  The interactive process includes; DSR application, documentation of a disability, meeting with a DSR advisor, and any follow-up needed to ensure reasonable accommodations have been considered.  Once this process has been completed, the student will receive a DSR memorandum of accommodation that lists their eligible accommodations. The student will then initiate a meeting with each professor who they will provide a copy of the DSR “memo” during office hours or via email to ensure a mutual understanding of how accommodations will be provided.

DSR Accommodation Memo

DSR Memo Video

Differences between IDEA, IEP’s, 504 Plans, and College Accommodations

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that governs any special education service or policy for children ages 3 to graduation (or until age 21 if student remains in high school until then). Each IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is developed by an “educational team” for that specific child and stipulates how that child’s education will be individualized in order for the child to learn. The IDEA is stylized so the child has the best opportunity to succeed. The child may be allowed “modifications” in the curriculum, the delivery, testing, and in the grading process in order to achieve some success in high school.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects individuals from discrimination based on their disabilities. This Act governs any public school or college that accepts any type of federal financial assistance stating, “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination,” but the Act itself provides no funding for the schools or colleges affected by its mandates. The seven-part Act is divided into Sections A-G. Subpart D applies to K-12 schools and Subpart E applies to postsecondary institutions. Subpart E mandates that qualified postsecondary students with disabilities be offered the opportunity to complete a degree with all other, non-disabled students.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, ADA Amended Act (ADAAA) of 2008

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (amended in 2008) is a federal civil rights law designed to ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities. The ADA, Title II, requires public entities to provide equal access and protects individuals from discrimination based on their disabilities. In high school, IDEA and 504 subsection D are the primary laws used to determine accommodations.  In the postsecondary world, the ADA is the foundation of accessibility and accommodations. Under IDEA, k-12 schools have an obligation to modify the curriculum to promote “academic progress”.  Under the ADA, colleges, and universities must "make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination and ensure access, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.”  Once access is ensured, qualified college students must complete essential requirements, with or without accommodations.  Through the interactive process, a DSR advisor can answer questions about what is and is not considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  Within the law, DSR will work with each student to develop custom support and ensure access to GVSU opportunities, resources, and requirements.

Page last modified April 29, 2024