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Student Disability Services (SDS)
Documentation Guidelines for Individuals with Disabilities

Students requesting accommodations at Johns Hopkins University are asked to submit documentation to receive services and/or accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination, have the right to equal access to programs and services, and may be eligible for reasonable accommodations.

General Documentation Guidelines

Johns Hopkins University acknowledges that disabilities are often ongoing but the severity of the condition and/or how it is impacts an individual in different settings may change over time. The purpose for requesting documentation is to consider each person individually and to understand if and how the individual is impacted by their disability in a higher education environment. This information is needed to make an informed decision about the need for accommodations and services.

In order to determine if a specific accommodation(s) is reasonable and appropriate, the following factors will be considered:

  • The disability and its impact as documented
  • Information obtained during the initial meeting with Student Disability Services
  • Student self-reported needs
  • Previous accommodations received
  • Accommodations being requested
  • Unique characteristics of course, clinical, lab, and/or employment or other setting
  • Any other documentation provided

Accommodation decisions typically are not made until an initial meeting has been conducted.

Definition of a Disability

In order to receive accommodations, an individual must have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Types of disabilities include (but are not limited to): Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD), chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, IBS, asthma), psychological conditions (such as anxiety, depression, PTSD), learning disabilities, Deaf or hard of hearing, physical disabilities and blindness or low vision.

Documentation from External Sources

Accommodations are determined based on a combination of sources. Documentation can be essential to that process and may include records of receiving accommodations at past educational institutions; SDS’ Documentation Form provides guidance about the information needed and can be completed by a qualified provider; reports, assessments, and letters from clinicians and/or psychologists are also accepted. Medical records should not be submitted as they may contain information that is not needed.

A 504 Plan, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Summary of Performance (SOP) can be submitted as documentation as long as the information provided describes the current impact of the condition and makes a relevant connection between the disability and the accommodation(s) being requested.

The following information is requested:

For All Disabilities (except for Learning Disabilities): A completed SDS Documentation Form or type written/signed letter from an appropriate professional is needed. The letter should include:

  • History of the disability
  • Description of the current impact and functional limitations as it relates to:
    • Students: Meeting the various demands of higher education and residential living (academically, socially, emotionally, physically, etc.)
    • Employees: The limitations caused by the condition and how those limitations impact the employee’s performance of the essential functions of the job ( please refer to the position description)
  • Expected progression or stability
  • Recommendations for accommodations or services
  • Implications of existing co-morbid conditions
  • Additional observations and/or recommendations

For Cognitive Disabilities (Learning Disabilities, conditions or incidents impacting the brain, Attention Deficit Disorder, Asperger’s and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders):

  • A comprehensive neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation that includes aptitude and achievement (preferably one with measures normed for an adult) is needed in order to determine current functional impact and to support accommodations requests
  • Rating scales and objective measure of attention (for ADD) – please note that ADD/ADHD can also be documented by a provider using our Documentation Form, but a full evaluation is often helpful in determining if there are also learning disabilities and identifying accommodations
  • Standardized scales of symptoms related to Autism (Asperger’s and PDD)
  • Language learning related scales and interpretation (if student is requesting accommodations related to second language learning)

Transfer and Graduate Students:

  • In addition to the documentation you provide, please submit a letter from any institution you previously attended that includes the timeframe in which you were provided services and the accommodations used.

Accommodation needs can potentially change over time and updated information should be submitted so the most effective services and accommodations can be provided. Updates at reasonable intervals may be requested when needs are not considered ongoing.

Student Disability Services also reserves the right to request additional documentation in order to support specific accommodations. If additional information is needed, Disability Services may determine that it is appropriate to provide provisional accommodations in the interim. Provisional accommodations will be determined based on the information that has been provided and are typically limited to the current term for students.

These guidelines are provided so that Student Disability Services can respond appropriately to the individual needs of the student. SDS reserves the right to determine eligibility for services based on adherence to these guidelines and established policies and procedures.

For additional information:

Students should contact the disability services staff in their school.  A list of disability services staff by school can be found at:


Edited: 08/23