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Disclosing Disability Information

Disability information includes any written or oral communication about a student’s disability. Along with the documentation submitted to Disability Support Services (DSS) by the student to verify his/her disability, Letters of Accommodation, written notes, e-mail correspondence, and conversations between the student and DSS staff are considered disability information.

Students requesting services from DSS sign a form acknowledging that they “understand that the provision of services may involve DSS staff disclosing disability information about me with appropriate university personnel involved with the delivery of services.” The student’s signature on the Disability Disclosure Form is an acknowledgment that the student understands DSS policy concerning the disclosure of disability information; it is not a Release of Information. Because DSS routinely interacts with faculty and staff on a student’s behalf, the student is asked to acknowledge that they understand the policy concerning the disclosure of disability information.

The decision as to what information to disclose and under what circumstances is determined on a case-by-case basis. Such decisions must necessarily balance the student’s right to confidentiality with the University’s need to know and share relevant information in order to provide services and accommodations. It is DSS policy, however, to disclose the minimal amount of disability information necessary to provide services and accommodations.

Disclosure can range from minimum to full communication of disability information.  Minimum communication is necessary to provide almost any type of service. A Letter of Accommodation to a student’s instructor is a form of minimum communication in that it does indicate that the student has a disability, but it does not state the nature of the disability. Responding to a faculty member’s question concerning how to implement a student’s testing accommodation would also be an example of minimal disclosure.

A more comprehensive disclosure of disability information would be when DSS identifies the student’s particular disability with a faculty member and the functional impact of the disability. This may be done to assist the faculty member in better understanding the student’s needs and how to implement an accommodation.

The full disclosure of disability information would be the sharing of information in a student’s DSS file, and specifically his/her documentation submitted to verify the disability.  DSS will not provide full disclosure of disability documentation without the student’s written consent, or as otherwise permitted by state or federal law.