Services for Students with Disabilities

Documenting psychiatric disabilities


Under the Americans with Disabilities Act an individual is regarded as having a psychiatric disability when they have a mental or psychological disorder that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities. Mental or psychological disorders which may constitute a disability include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (which include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder), schizophrenia and personality disorders. Conditions not covered under the ADA include diagnosis such as gender disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania and pyromania. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) is relevant for identifying mental disorders.


In order to provide appropriate and reasonable accommodations, documentation for a psychiatric disability should include the following components:

  • Provided by a qualified individual such as a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, who is an impartial individual not related to the student. A clear statement of the student's illness(es), including the DSM-IV diagnosis, date of the diagnosis, date of last contact with the student, and a summary of the present symptoms and a prognosis. (Must be coded on Axis I or II.)
  • Documentation should be current, and describe how the student's psychiatric condition functionally interferes with, or impacts the ability to participate in an educational setting. (Generally, documentation that is less that three years old is adequate, however the age of the documentation is dependent upon the psychiatric condition.)
  • Information relating to the side effects of medication and the impact of medication changes if the student is receiving medication for their psychiatric condition.
  • Suggestions of academic accommodations which might be appropriate in an educational setting, supported by a disability related rationale.