Student Services: Disability Support Services

Disability Support Services

Disability Support Services (DSS) is committed to creating an accessible educational experience for students with disabilities. We partner with students, faculty, and staff to design accessible environments and to provide academic accommodations and support services.

Qualifying for Services

“Disability” is a broad term that includes, but is not limited to mental health conditions, chronic health conditions, temporary injuries, physical/learning disabilities, and ADHD.

Common Accommodations / Services
  • • Exam Accommodations
  • • Accessible Media
  • • Assistive Technology
  • • Accommodations Consultation and Advocacy
Registering for Disability Services

Students register with DSS to be approved for accommodations. For more information on how to register for services, email

Registration is confidential and does not appear on transcripts. Medical documentation and information are kept private. Once registered students in onsite programs notify their instructors if they want to utilize accommodations in that instructor’s course. For online students extended deadlines for assignments and exams will be automatically set in Canvas.

Contact Us

Disability support personnel are available to answer questions regarding the registration process, available services and other related concerns Monday- Friday 9 am- 5 pm (EST)


In compliance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as state and federal law, Disability Support Services (DSS) protects the confidentiality of records maintained on file.

Office Location:

Divine Mercy University
45154 Underwood Lane
Sterling, VA 20166


Contact for more information regarding disability services at DMU. To initiate a request for accommodations, submit your request here.

Divine Mercy University recognizes and supports the standards set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA), and the updated regulations and guidance to Titles II and III of the ADA. As noted in 2012 by the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), the 2008 ADA amendment rejected the previously held standard requiring extensive evidence with supporting documentation prior to acknowledging or granting requested accommodation.

Position Statement

Disabilities may include physical or mental impairments which substantially limit one or more of a person’s major life activities, and which necessitate modifications to the facilities, programs, or services of DMU. DMU does not discriminate and follows the protocols established by ADA, the ADAA, and AHEAD. DMU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for qualifying students with disabilities as required by applicable laws. DMU adheres to the following precept as a context for providing accommodations to those with a disability: Respect for difference involves accepting others in a context of mutual understanding. Despite some visible and apparent differences between people, all have the same rights and dignity. In relation to disability, it involves accepting persons with disabilities for who they are, rather than pitying them or seeing them as a problem that needs to be fixed.

(United Nations, 2014, p. 16)

As per the framework provided by AHEAD (2012):

The concepts described in this document are interrelated components of a comprehensive, professional approach to using disability documentation to make informed decisions. This framework is consistent with the letter and spirit of the law, reflective of legal and judicial thinking, and responsive to scholarly understandings of disability and its role in higher education and society (❡ 1).


With the changes in law under the ADAA (2008), there are no longer regulations or legal basis for requiring institutions to obtain documentation as a method of demonstrating entitlement to legal protections under Section 504. Current regulations suggest that postsecondary institutions may request a reasonable level of documentation. DMU determines eligibility by a process that must be initiated by the recipient with a request for accommodation to Disability Support Services. Disability Support Services may then require documentation as follows:

Primary Documentation

The applicant (student/staff) requesting accommodation is the initial source of information guiding decisions of eligibility. The applicant must provide a personal statement that includes, as a minimum, the following information:

  1. Nature of the disability including the person’s experience of the disability.
  2. Barriers to learning or working with the disability.
  3. Requested accommodations.

Secondary Documentation

Secondary documentation is provided by Disability Support Services personnel to record interactions with the person requesting accommodations. These documents should include interview narratives and gleaned impressions by telephone, email and Internet exchanges between the DMU professionals and the applicant. The DMU disability professionals will note their evaluation of the effectiveness of prior accommodations for the individual, observation of applicant’s language, performance, and strategies they may have employed. These are tools for determining the validity of the self-report.

Tertiary Documentation

DMU may, at their discretion, request tertiary documentation for adjunctive information in determining the extent and nature of accommodations provided. Tertiary documentation is information from third parties that may include health or medical records, assessments created by psychologists, current or former teachers/instructors, and information that reflects educational history such as the Individual Education Plan (IEP), Summary of Performance (SOP), and observations. Tertiary documentation may vary in nature, value and need based on the comprehensiveness of the Primary Documentation received from the applicant. “Any request for documentation, if such documentation is required, is reasonable and limited to the need for the modification, accommodation, or auxiliary aid or service requested” (28.CFR.38.309.iv) The rule notes that DMU can require documentation though they are not obligated to do so.

The documentation request process is critical to helping the disability professionals at DMU determine the extent of the applicant’s disability, to understand the impact of the disability, and to assist in making informed decisions about accommodations. The disability professional at DMU and the applicant must establish a collaborative relationship that is deliberate, effective and responsive. The DMU professional should engage in structured, comprehensive exchanges with the applicant to explore and document past educational experiences, what has and has not been previously effective, and to determine a clear path forward. It is crucial for the applicant to be proactive and actively engaged in this process to both initiate and consistently preserve autonomy as well as a meaningful accommodation plan.

 The DMU professional may use primary and secondary documentation alone depending on the clarity, internal consistency, and congruence with the professional’s observations. If the applicant is unable to clearly describe how a disability is connected to a barrier at DMU, and how the accommodation would reduce or eliminate the barrier, DMU may request tertiary documentation. However, “No third-party information may be necessary to confirm disability or evaluate requests for accommodations when the condition and its impact are readily apparent or comprehensively described. No specific language, tests, or diagnostic labels are required” (AHEAD, 2012, p. 4). DMU will not require a burdensome documentation process that may have the effect of discouraging applicants from seeking protections and accommodations. Applicants are not required to bear the responsibility of achieving access through a cumbersome, time-consuming process. 

The applicants should be informed that they cannot assume that an accommodation has been approved until a plan has been mutually agreed upon and documented. 

Step One: Applicant Request

The applicant must initiate the contact with DMU Disability Support Services. The request will be entered into a file and primary documentation requested from the applicant. DMU is responsible for informing the applicant of the DMU process, and that it may differ from other institutions and/or prior experiences of the applicant.

Step Two: Documentation

The documentation process must be engaged as noted above with Primary and Secondary documentation entered into the file. Disability information should be relatively current and relevant, but it does not have to be recent as disabilities are often lifelong. Basic historic information with the request, the impact of the disability and inherent barriers, and the requested accommodation are sufficient. As noted above, the DMU professional may request tertiary documentation. It is the applicant’s responsibility to obtain and submit any requested tertiary documentation.

Step Three: Individual Review

Following the review of documents, the applicant will be notified of status. If approved, the extent of reasonable accommodations will be outlined (i.e., extra time for assignments, tests, etc.).

Step Four: Receiving the Accommodations

Upon receipt of the letter of accommodations, the student must sign electronically the form agreeing to the accommodations.

  • Once registered students in onsite programs notify their instructors if they want to utilize accommodations in that instructor’s course.
  • For online students extended deadlines for assignments and exams will be automatically set in Canvas.