Documentation Guidelines

The Access & Equity Team (Team) at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) has adopted a social justice model for disability identification and for the determination of appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services (sometimes referred to as “reasonable accommodations”).

What does this mean for the student?

This simply means that most of the time, the Team will rely on the student’s lived experience as a person with a disability (Primary Documentation) and the Access Team member’s professional experience with various disabilities, environmental and societal barriers, and auxiliary aids and services, appropriate academic adjustments, and accommodations (Secondary Documentation). In some limited circumstances, the Team may need information from an external source (Tertiary Documentation).

Students may make an appointment to meet with someone from the Access Team to create an Access Plan. They may choose 1) to provide tertiary documentation in advance or at the meeting, or just attend the meeting (via Teams, phone, or in person; 2) they may provide a written narrative and respond to any questions from the Team member who is assisting in developing the Access Plan; or 3) they may send an audio file, also prepared to then respond to any questions in the format of their choice. 


While TC3 requires tertiary documentation only in limited circumstances, the same may not be true of other postsecondary institutions a student may attend. It may be wise to obtain this documentation for future purposes and hold it in electronic format at TC3. TC3 will provide documentation of academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services and/or accommodations provided here when requested by the student.

The following is from AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability):

Sources and Forms of Documentation

Acceptable sources of documentation for substantiating a student’s disability and request for particular accommodations can take a variety of forms:

Primary Documentation: Student’s Self-report

The student is a vital source of information regarding how he or she may be “limited by impairment.” A student’s narrative of his or her experience of disability, barriers, and effective and ineffective accommodations is an important tool which, when structured by interview or questionnaire and interpreted, may be sufficient for establishing disability and a need for accommodation.

Secondary Documentation: Observation and Interaction

The impressions and conclusions formed by higher education disability professionals during interviews and conversations with students or in evaluating the effectiveness of previously implemented or provisional accommodations are important forms of documentation. Experienced disability professionals should feel comfortable using their observations of students’ language, performance and strategies as an appropriate tool in validating student narrative and self-report.

Tertiary Documentation: Information From External or Third Parties

Documentation from external sources may include educational or medical records, reports and assessments created by health care providers, school psychologists, teachers, or the educational system. This information is inclusive of documents that reflect education and accommodation history, such as Individual Education Program (IEP), Summary of Performance (SOP), and teacher observations. External documentation will vary in its relevance and value depending on the original context, credentials of the evaluator, the level of detail provided, and the comprehensiveness of the narrative. However, all forms of documentation are meaningful and should be mined for pertinent information.

AHEAD. (2012, October). Supporting accommodation requests: guidance on documentation practices. Huntersville, NC: Association on Higher Education and Disability.


Disability documentation is considered private information and does not become part of a student's permanent educational record. In accordance with federal and state law, the college shall maintain privacy of student records. All documentation and records will be maintained in the Office of the Coordinator Access and Equity Services and may include electronic records.

Documentation and questions should be addressed to:

The Baker Center for Learning
607.844.8222, Ext. 4415
Fax: 607.844.6549