Disability Terms & Definitions

Below are definitions of disability-related terms commonly used at KCC. For more information, contact the Support Services Department at 269-965-4150 or supportservices@kellogg.edu.


This is a broad term that refers to auxiliary aids and/or services that students with disabilities receive based on the specific documentation provided to the Support Service Department.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. In the context of higher education, the ADA provides that students with disabilities not to be discriminated in, or excluded from access to, educational opportunities and activities conducted or sponsored by the college. To achieve equal access to educational opportunities, reasonable accommodations may be provided to students to minimize the effect of the disability on the individual student’s access to educational services, programs, and/or activities.

Assitive Technology/Equipment

Any mechanical device, electronic device (hardware), or computer program (software) that is used as an approved reasonable accommodation for a disability.


A diagnosis is provided in documentation from a qualified professional with knowledge of the disability and the student and includes: how the disability substantially limits the individual’s ability to perform a major life activity and how the diagnosis was determined. Please note that a diagnosis of an illness or impairment by itself may not entitle you to any accommodations if the physical or mental condition diagnosed does not impose a functional limitation on one or more of the major life activities.


Federal law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts the conditions, manner, or duration under which an average person in the general population can perform a major life activity. Disabilities don’t always impair the individual student’s performance but may require the individual to seek alternate methods of carrying out a given task. An impairment or diagnosis, in and of itself, does not constitute a disability: it must “substantially limit” activities of daily living.


Documentation must be provided by a licensed professional, with specific knowledge of both the individual and the disability, and include: diagnosis, method of diagnosis, how the disability affects one or more major life function and recommendations for academic accommodations in a college setting. Support Services will review any documentation received and determine what, if any, accommodations are reasonable for the student.

Extended Time (on tests)

Some students with disabilities are allowed extended time on tests and quizzes. At KCC, “extended time” is defined as one and one-half times the normally allowed testing time in class. This accommodation can be arranged directly with the instructor or utilizing the testing center. As with any reasonable accommodation, this must be approved by Support Services ahead of time based on student documentation.

Functional Limitation

A disability must limit functioning in school before one can receive an accommodation. A college-level educational institution, such as KCC, defines “functional limitation” as the impact of the disability on the student’s ability to have access to a program of study. A diagnosis of an illness or impairment, in and of itself, does not necessarily require accommodation. There must be a logical link between the functional limitation stemming from the diagnosis and the accommodation provided.

Instructor Notification

When reasonable accommodations have been approved for a student, Support Services sends notification emails to instructors at the beginning of every semester. The notifications contain the following information:

  • Student name
  • Which course the student is taking with this instructor
  • General information about disability services procedures
  • Approved accommodations

No information identifying the student’s actual disability or diagnosis is ever sent to instructors. The student may choose to share this information with the instructors–and in fact, we encourage such sharing to take place, so that greater understanding can develop. Whether or not to share this information and the extent of information shared is up to the student. Counselors are available to discuss this further with students.

Learning Disability

A group of disorders that affect a broad range of academic and functional skills including the ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason and organize information. A learning disability is not indicative of low intelligence. People with learning disabilities have difficulty achieving to their intellectual ability because of a deficit in one or more of the ways the brain processes information.

Licensed Professional

An individual who has a license to practice in his/her area of medicine, psychiatry, or psychology by a state, board, or other licensing or credentialing body. In the context of disability services, a licensed professional is one who would be qualified to make a diagnosis of a disability related to his/her area of practice. Please note that, for disability documentation, a licensed professional is qualified to make a diagnosis and/or recommendations only when the disability diagnosis is within his/her area of licensure.

Major Life Activity

Government regulations define “major life activities” as “functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.” This list is not an exhaustive one—that is, the listed activities are examples, but other activities may also be considered “major life activities.” An impairment or diagnosis, in and of itself, does not constitute a disability: it must “substantially limit” activities of daily living.

Recommendations for Accommodations

When a qualified professional provides documentation of a disability, he or she is asked by Support Services to recommend specific accommodations that would be appropriate. Support Services uses these recommendations to determine which accommodations are reasonable and effective. Even though an accommodation is recommended, Support Services may or may not approve it based on careful review of the documentation that is provided to our office. Certain accommodations are also not appropriate because they would alter the essential requirements of a degree program or place an undue hardship on the college.

Requesting Accommodations

Please follow this link to see our process for requesting accommodations.

Review of Documentation

Once Support Services receives your disability documentation, our review includes the following:

  • Verification of professional credentials
  • Verification that the diagnosis methods were appropriate to diagnose the stated disability
  • Review the diagnosis and recommendations for accommodations made by the professional
  • Make a decision on which accommodations are reasonable and would likely be effective based on the documentation

Once we have reviewed the documentation and made a decision on your reasonable accommodations, we notify you about our decision via KCC email. If you are currently enrolled in classes, an Instructor Notification is sent to your instructors.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Section 504 guarantees certain rights to individuals with disabilities. In the context of higher education, Section 504 requires the provision of appropriate educational services; services that are designed to meet the individual needs of qualified students to the same extent that the needs of students without a disability are met. Section 504 was designed to enable full participation in educational opportunities and activities conducted or sponsored by the college for individuals with disabilities. Section 504 states:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability as defined (herein) shall, solely by reason of his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”


Support Services strongly urges you to share an appropriate amount of information about your disability with your instructors. This type of self-disclosure (or self-advocacy) is not required to receive accommodations or assistance, but usually helps your instructors to better understand the difficulties you face and fosters communication between you, the instructor, and our office to allow us to better assist you.