The Catholic University of America

ADA Guidelines

Learning Disabilities


Definition: A validated learning disability is a condition the ADA recognizes should be reasonably accommodated or adjusted for in the academic setting. A student must have the following to qualify as learning disabled:

  • average or above average intelligence as measured by a standardized intelligence test which includes assessment of verbal and non-verbal abilities;

  • the presence of a cognitive-achievement discrepancy or an intra-cognitive discrepancy indicated by a score on a standardized test of achievement which is 1.5 standard deviations or more below the level corresponding to a student's sub-scale or full-scale IQ;

  • the presence of disorders in cognitive or sensory processing such as those related to memory, language, or attention; and

  • an absence of other primary causal factors leading to achievement below expectations such as visual or auditory disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, a lack of opportunity to learn due to cultural or socio-economic circumstances, or deficiencies in intellectual ability.

Documentation: The existence of a learning disability and the need for accommodation are two different things and may be documented by two different sources. The student must provide documentation verifying the learning disability which:

  • is prepared by a professional qualified to diagnose a learning disability, including but not limited to a licensed physician, learning disability specialist, or psychologist;

  • includes the testing procedures followed, the instruments used to assess the disability, the test results, and a written interpretation of the test results by the professional;

  • reflects the individual's present level of functioning in the achievement areas of reading comprehension, reading rate, written expression, writing mechanics and vocabulary, writing, grammar, and spelling; and

  • reflects the individual's present level of functioning in the areas of intelligence and processing skills.


The assessment must provide data that support the request for any academic adjustment. If the university requires an additional assessment for the purpose of obtaining a second professional opinion then the university shall bear any cost not covered by any third party payor. Records may be disclosed only to those with a need to know. Reasonable accommodations should be based on the interpretation of the assessment scores, history of accommodations, the testing format, and the students input on what works best. See the CUA Disability Supports Service Responsibilities brochure for more information on the reasonable accommodation process.


Source: 28 C.F.R. § 35.104 and § 36.104; University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Policy and Procedures for the Provisions of Services to Students with Disabilities, as published in materials provided for the Joint Conference on Disability Issues, 1995, St. Louis, Missouri.

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