January 24, 2018

Documentation Guidelines

Effective 6/9/21

Please read the Accommodations Process before reading the Documentation Guidelines below for a fully accurate description of how documentation compliments our Accommodations Process.  

Why do we ask for documentation?

As part of our holistic and interactive accommodations process, we collect information from multiple sources about a student’s disability, their experience, and the barriers they encounter. Sources of this information can include a student’s self-report, educational records, and medical documentation. This information helps us gain a thorough understanding of a student’s disability and provide equitable access for their CSU experience. At any time, we may ask for additional documentation if we need more information from a medical provider to identify an access barrier and determine accommodation. 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, our office reserves the right to request documentation to verify that a student is a “qualified person with a disability” and that their requested accommodations are appropriate. Under the ADA, a “qualified person with a disability” is defined as an individual:  

  • who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities, 
  • who has a history or record of such an impairment, or  
  • who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. 

No documentation, don’t worry

We know that not every student has documentation. In our office, we view disability as part of a student’s identity. Having a disability can have a major impact on how a student sees and experiences the world. We are excited to learn about each student, their experience, and how we can make the CSU environment accessible to them.  

Some students may have never been formally diagnosed with a disability or cannot afford to get documentation. We don’t want to create barriers to connecting with our office. Any student can meet with our office to discuss their situation and explore options for support. During this conversation, we can discuss how to move forward with obtaining documentation.  

What can be documentation?

We know there are multiple types of formal and informal documentation. Some disabilities are self-evident and do not require documentation to assess access needs.  

Formal documentation must be from a licensed medical provider who is unrelated to the student. Examples include:  

  • visual acuity test 
  • letter on official letterhead 
  • psychiatric evaluation 
  • audiogram 
  • 504/IEP from K-12 institution 

If you can provide formal documentation, please ask your provider to include the following: 

  • diagnosis/explanation of symptoms (What is the student experiencing that substantially limits their daily activities?) 
  • duration of documentation (How long should accommodations be provided?) 
  • methodologies to determine the diagnosis/es 
  • any recommendations regarding accommodations 
  • signature of the provider and date  

We recognize that there may be substantial financial and/or societal barriers in obtaining formal documentation. If these barriers apply, please consider the following alternatives: 

  • online Health Portal (screenshots or photos)  
  • accommodation letter from a previous college or university. 
  • accommodation letter from ACT or College Board standardized testing.  

Documentation for specific accommodations

Due to additional state and federal laws and compliance, the following specific accommodation processes include additional documentation requirements. Please review these specific procedures to ensure your documentation meets these requirements if you are requesting these accommodations. 

For housing and dining accommodations, we may ask for documentation specific to the housing or dining environment and access barriers presented to the student in their living and dining spaces. 

The Fair Housing Act requires a housing provider to allow a reasonable accommodation involving an assistance animal in situations that meet certain conditions. Please reference the Support Animal webpage for additional information about assistance animals, expectations, and CSU policy.  

Students requesting an Emotional Support Animal as a reasonable accommodation for a substantially limiting disability need to submit appropriate documentation to the Student Disability Center. This documentation needs to be from a professional who is qualified to make an assessment and who knows the student in a professional capacity to a degree that will allow them to make such an assessment.

Please Note that the CSU Health Network is not able to provide documentation to support the request for an Emotional Support Animal. 

Please answer the following questions as thoroughly as you can on professional letterhead with a signature and date. 

Please help us understand how this request for an animal is different from that of any student wanting a pet. 

  1. How long have you worked with the student? 
  2. How is the student substantially limited by their disability? 
  3. What is the connection (nexus) between the disability and the ESA? How does the ESA mitigate the symptoms of the disability? 
  4. Is there evidence that an ESA has helped the student in the past? Please explain. 
  5. In your opinion, how important is it for the student’s well-being that the ESA be in residence on campus?  
  6. In your opinion, what may result if the ESA is not approved? 
  7. Have you discussed the responsibilities associated with properly caring for an animal? 
  8. Do you feel that the responsibilities for caring for an animal will exacerbate the student’s disability in any way? 

Colorado State University, and the State of Colorado, living regulations require that all newly admitted first-year students (Admissions Type “New”) and transfer students with fewer than 15 post-high school credits, who are single, under 21 years of age, and not living with their parents in the Fort Collins area, live in the University residence.  

This requirement is shared amongst all residential Colorado universities and colleges. Since this is a state-wide regulation, in order to be exempt from this process for a medical or disability-related reason, students must: 

  1. Submit a Housing Exemption Request Form and notarized personal statement to University Housing  
  1. Submit medical documentation to the Director of the Student Disability Center with verification of the medical diagnosis, recommendation for the exemption, and a description of the access barriers related to living on campus on official letterhead and signed by a qualified medical professional. 

As evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, students with underlying health conditions that may not typically rise to the level of disability but now are experiencing substantial limitations due to the risk of contracting the virus are requesting accommodations. As such, the SDC requests that students with these underlying health conditions such as asthma, heart, lung, kidney disease, autoimmune conditions, or other such factors that increase risk of complicationsubmit a letter from a medical provider which verifies their health condition and the increased risk or vulnerability to COVID-19, taking into consideration vaccine status, as well as recommending virtual access and any other additional precautions for the semester.  

Additionally, all students have access to free N95 masks that are provided by CSU/SDC. Given this, please provide information on the students level of risk is to COVID-19 if they wear an N95 mask.

How to send documentation

You can submit documentation before, during, or after your appointment. For details, see our contact us page 

Acceptable Formats of Documentation:

  • email from provider 
  • PDF document 
  • fax 
  • paper copies dropped off to a front desk staff member during business hours  
  • clear photos if necessary, but not preferred. 
  • formal documentation must have a date, the provider’s signature, and be on the provider’s business letterhead.  

If we have not confirmed we received your documentation within 3 business days after you sent in the documentation, contact us to follow up.  

FERPA & confidentiality of records

The Student Disability Center is committed to protecting the students’ privacy by ensuring the privacy of student education records as required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Examples of information in a student’s record include documentation, case notes, communication between the student and SDC staff, and whether the student is working with the SDC. 

Student information is securely stored in the Student Disability Center, network drives, or a data management system. Student records are retained for seven years from the last semester receiving accommodations and services. Neither disability nor the use of accommodations is noted on a student’s transcripts. 

Student information will be shared only with others within CSU who have a legitimate educational interest or on a “need-to-know” basis. 

Student information will not be released to parties outside CSU, including parents, medical providers, and other colleges or universities, except in accordance with federal and state law. For example, disability-related information may be released pursuant to a court order or subpoena or if the student states intent to harm oneself or others. 

To learn more about FERPA, please visit the Student Privacy Website 

These documentation guidelines, as well as our processes and procedures, are specific to the SDC and CSU. Other entities on campus that provide similar services and/or other institutions may have their own policies, procedures, and documentation guidelines. Accommodations provided at CSU do not automatically transfer to another institution or entity. 

Please note: We will not cover the cost of documentation if required from a provider. Please utilize one of the above free or lower-cost options listed above if finances are an obstacle.  

What is next?

  • make an appointment with the SDC to discuss your disability and CSU experience 
  • send in your documentation of your disability, if applicable 
  • contact us with any questions or concerns