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NOVA Disability Documentation Guidelines

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  1. Clearly state the name, title and professional credentials of the evaluator (ex. licensed psychologist), the area of specialization and the state/province in which the individual practices.
  2. Write in narrative format and include a description of the diagnostic tests, methods and/or criteria used, the specific results of the diagnostic procedures, and when available, both summary and specific test scores. A diagnosis alone is not sufficient information to establish eligibility or provide accommodations.
  3. Describe the current substantial functional impact of the disability on a major life activity.
  4. Indicate treatments, medications and/or assistive devices/services currently prescribed or in use and significant side effects that may impact physical, perceptual, behavioral or cognitive performance.
  5. Describe the expected progression or stability of the impact of the disability over time, particularly the next five years.
  6. Recommend accommodations, including adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies and/or collateral support services.

The disability type determines how current the required documentation needs to be. Older documentation may be appropriate if it is still relevant to the individual's situation and otherwise meets the guidelines outlined here. Periodic updates of documentation may be requested in certain situations.

All information obtained in diagnostic and medical reports will be maintained and used in accordance with applicable confidentiality requirements. College policy reclassifies any student not enrolled for three full years as inactive. Records of inactive students will not be retained.

Documentation Guidelines by Disability Type

These specific guidelines were developed to assist students in working with their treating professional(s) to prepare the information needed by NOVA counselors to verify eligibility based on a specific type of disability. NOVA’s documentation guidelines adhere to the recommendations of the Virginia Higher Education Guidelines for Documentation of a Disability.

Criteria for Developmental Disabilities (including Autism-Spectrum Disorders)

  • A statement of DSM diagnosis and date of onset.
  • A narrative summary of the current level of functioning, specifying present symptoms resulting in substantial functional limitations of one or more life functions.
  • Medical information to be considered in a college environment, including personal care concerns.
  • Suggestions of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis, including assistive devices, techniques, or supports that are essential to the success of the student.

 Criteria for Attention Deficit Disorders

  • A clear statement of the DSM or ICD diagnosis, including pertinent history. A Neuropsychological Evaluation is preferred.
  • Documentation should typically be less than three years old. Updated documentation may periodically be requested to determine current functioning.
  • A narrative summary of the assessment procedures used to come to the diagnosis. Assessment results should be included.
  • A narrative summary of the current level of functioning, specifying present symptoms and fluctuating conditions/symptoms resulting in functional limitations.
  • Medical information to be considered in a college environment.
  • Suggestions of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis.

Criteria for Psychiatric Disabilities

  • A clear statement of the DSM or ICD diagnosis, including pertinent history.
  • Documentation should typically be less than one-year old. Updated documentation may periodically be requested to determine current functioning.
  • A narrative summary of the assessment procedures used to come to the diagnosis.
  • A narrative summary of the current level of functioning, specifying present symptoms and fluctuating conditions/symptoms resulting in functional limitations.
  • Medical information to be considered in a college environment.
  • Suggestions of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis.

Criteria for Deaf/Hard of Hearing

  • An assessment (Audiogram) confirming the diagnosis of hearing impairment and the severity of hearing loss.
  • Documentation should be less than three years old. In cases where the hearing loss is static (unchanging), an older audiogram may be presented with a note from a physician confirming that there have been no changes in functioning since the last assessment. If the hearing loss is progressive, updated documentation may periodically be requested.  For additional questions or concerns regarding documentation, please contact Disability Support Services.
  • Suggestions by the physician of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis are recommended.

Criteria for Blind/Visually Impaired

  • A diagnosis of visual impairment including acuity, prognosis, and prescription of correction and/or low vision aids.
  • Documentation should be less than three years old. In cases where the visual impairment is static (unchanging), an older assessment may be presented with a note from a physician confirming that there have been no changes in functioning since the last assessment. If the loss of vision is progressive, updated documentation may periodically be requested.  For additional questions or concerns regarding documentation, please contact Disability Support Services.  
  • A summary of the current level of functioning, specifying areas of functional limitation.
  • A summary of the assessment procedures used to come to the diagnosis.
  • Suggestions by the physician of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis are recommended.

Criteria for Traumatic Brain Injury/Acquired Head Injury

  • An assessment (Neuropsychological Evaluation or equivalent testing) confirming the diagnosis of a brain injury.
  • Documentation should typically be dated no more than 18 months post-injury. If an initial evaluation is presented, a post eighteen-month evaluation will be requested at the end of the following semester or once the 18 month milestone is reached. Post-eighteen month evaluations using testing instruments normed for children must be no more than three years old at the time of intake. Post-eighteen month evaluations using adult-normed testing instruments are considered current for a period of five years.
  • A narrative summary of the cognitive and achievement measures and evaluation results, including standardized scores, used to make the diagnosis.
  • A narrative summary of the current level of functioning, specifying present residual symptoms resulting in functional limitations.
  • Medical information to be considered in a college environment, including personal care concerns.
  • Suggestions of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis.

Criteria for Speech Impairment

  • A diagnosis of speech impairment including prognosis from a licensed speech/language clinician.
  • Documentation should be less than three years old. In cases where the speech impairment is static (unchanging), an older assessment may be presented with a note from a speech/language clinician confirming that there have been no changes in functioning since the last assessment. If change in functioning is expected, updated documentation may periodically be requested.
  • A summary of the current level of functioning, specifying areas of functional limitation.
  • A summary of the assessment procedures used to come to the diagnosis.
  • Suggestions by the speech/language clinician of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis are recommended.

Criteria for Other Medical Conditions 

  • In general, a diagnosis of a medical condition, including prognosis is required. If no specific diagnosis has been made, documentation must demonstrate that present medical symptoms substantially limit one or more major life activities.
  • Documentation should be less than three years old. In cases where the impairment is static (unchanging), an older assessment may be presented with a note from a physician confirming that there have been no changes in functioning since the last assessment. If functioning is expected to change during the student’s enrollment, updated documentation may periodically be requested. For additional questions or concerns regard documentation, please contact Disability Support Services.
  • A summary of the current level of functioning, specifying areas of functional limitation.
  • A summary of the assessment procedures used to come to the diagnosis.
  • Suggestions by the physician of reasonable accommodations supported by the diagnosis are recommended.
  • Other medical information to be considered in a college environment, including personal care concerns.

Definition of Terms

Disability
is defined as a physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Major life activities
are defined as functions such as caring for oneself and performing manual tasks including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working and experiencing leisure.
Substantially limits
means when one is unable to perform a major life activity that the average person can perform; or when one is significantly restricted in the manner or duration under which one can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the average person.
Otherwise academically qualified
is defined as meeting the academic or technical standards for admission for participation in the education program or activity requested. NOVA uses multiple methods to determine whether a student is otherwise academically qualified, including the satisfactory completion of the college’s Ability to Benefit, Mathematics and/or English placement tests at the minimum level of instruction offered by the College.
Memorandum of Accommodation (MOA)
is the official document prepared by a Disabilities Services counselor in consultation with the student that lists the approved classroom and testing accommodations. The instructor and test center personnel must have a copy of the MOA in order to provide the accommodations. Approved accommodations must be reasonable and must not constitute a fundamental alteration of the course.
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