Why doesn't Disability Services provide Learning Disability assessment?

Neither the Americans with Disabilities Act nor Section 504 make it incumbent upon institutions of higher learning to evaluate and assess students with disabilities or suspected disabilities. This is, of course, in contrast with the student's entitlement to assessment and services in public schools.

In the logic of civil rights (as opposed to educational entitlement), the individual must assert and claim his or her right to equal access. As such, the individual cannot then put the burden of proof on the institution, employer, or business. One must identify oneself as a qualified person with a disability and be prepared to provide the documents that verify that claim.

Disability Services provides a list of qualified professionals in the Missoula area from which students can choose. This occurs when information is too old to accurately reflect the student's functioning, if the student has not been previously diagnosed with a disability, or if the professional who did the assessment would not be otherwise qualified in that area. For example, a speech pathologist would not likely be qualified to assess for learning disabilities. Nor would a teacher for blind and low vision students be qualified to assess communication disorders in most cases. (Note: Disability Services will not accept documentation if the professional making the assessment is related to the student.)

The most important thing that sets Disability Services at UM apart from other Disability Services offices is that we are staffed primarily by professionals with disabilities. We have experienced discrimination in the form of paternalism, and the double bind of low expectations and the attitude that we must not be that disabled if we are successful at what we attempt. Our experiences shape our attitudes toward disability, equality, and how we promote access in our office and across campus and they place us in the midst of the disability rights movement.


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