Jump to other news and events
Purdue Dean of Students Logo
Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube 

Visual Impairments

General Information

Purdue University is required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to provide effective auxiliary aids and services for qualified students with documented disabilities if such academic adjustments are needed to provide equitable access to the University’s programs and services.  Federal law defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”  Major life activities are defined as the ability to perform functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, or taking care of oneself.  It is important to note that a diagnosis of a visual impairment does not necessarily constitute a disability.  The degree of impairment must be significant enough to “substantially limit” one or more major life activities.

The mission of the Disability Resource Center is to provide services that enable and encourage eligible students with disabilities to seek success in their intellectual and personal development at Purdue and elsewhere. The staff of the Disability Resource Center, in collaboration with the wider University community, ensures these students access to academic and extracurricular activities. The mission of the Disability Resource Center includes the provision of academic adjustments to qualified students with a visual impairment.  The documentation guidelines are designed to allow the Disability Resource Center to achieve these goals. 

The Purdue University guidelines for documentation of a visual impairment were developed to aid professionals who assess Purdue students. The documentation must identify the qualified professional making the evaluation, include a specific diagnosis of a visual impairment, be current, and be comprehensive. The documentation must establish the current functional limitations of the condition, how it impairs the person and how it may impact educational performance. The definition of a functional limitation is:  A substantial impairment in the individual’s ability to perform in the condition, manner or duration customary for a major life activity. Academic adjustments may be recommended; however, a clear and convincing rationale is required to identify the necessity of the adjustments to achieve access. Academic adjustments are assisting devices, modifications or adaptations that serve to ease the current impact of the medical condition on access to a particular learning activity. (Note: there are additional guidelines that apply to the diagnosis of a mental disorder (e.g., Psychological Disability, Learning Disorder, Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder).)

The staff of the Disability Resource Center on a case-by-case basis makes the determination of whether a diagnosed visual impairment rises to the level of a substantial limitation of a major life activity. Further, they determine what reasonable adjustments in the academic activities are needed to provide access. If the quality or quantity of the documentation is inadequate, the options for Disability Resource Center staff are to deny eligibility, to deny a requested adjustment or to request additional documentation.

Information provided to the Disability Resource Center is considered confidential.  Documentation and evaluation information will not be released outside of the academic community without the consent of the student or the compulsion of legal process.  Generally, documentation and evaluation information is not shared within the academic community without the consent of the student.


The following guidelines are provided to assure that documentation is appropriate to determine eligibility and to support requests for reasonable academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services.  The staff of the Disability Resource Center is available to consult with diagnosticians regarding any requirements of these guidelines.

The documentation must:

  • include a current ocular assessment or evaluation from an ophthalmologist.
  • include a low-vision evaluation of residual visual function, when appropriate.
  • include a diagnosis of a vision-related impairment.
  • include the functional limitations imposed by the condition in an academic environment. (Note: Visual impairments that are sporadic or change over time may require more current evaluations)
  • include the probable course and estimated duration of the condition.
  • be prepared by a qualified professional.  A family member may not be the evaluating professional.
  • be typed on letterhead, and include the name, title, credentials, and location of the evaluating professional.

The Disability Resource Center encourages evaluating professionals to recommend academic adjustments and to explain why they are needed to achieve access.

Questions about documentation for visual impairments should be directed to the Disability Resource Center, (765) 494-1247, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Submission of Documentation

Documentation should be mailed or faxed to:
                        Disability Resource Center
                        Ernest C. Young Hall, Room 830
                        155 S Grant St.
                        West Lafayette, IN 47907-2114
                        Fax: (765) 496-3759