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How are Students Diagnosed?

Students with physical disabilities must have documentation by a licensed physician.Given the advances in the field of learning disabilities during the last decade, it is now much more common for students with special needs to arrive at college with a diagnosis in hand. Sometimes as early as the preschool years, these students were noticed by a teacher or parent, and referred for further evaluation. They may have received academic support in an informal way, or they may have been officially placed into special programs for students with learning disabilities. The records that these students can supply are of great help to a university support team in arranging needed accommodations.

But other students arrive at the university never having been diagnosed. Such students may have been very adept in developing coping strategies and compensatory skills that made it possible for them to succeed in high school, but these strategies may prove to be insufficient for college work. If these students find themselves less successful than they should be here at Pacific, and if a preliminary screening indicates that a learning disability may be involved, they are referred to licensed psychologists on- or off-campus for additional evaluation. Please see the Coordinator of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities for a current list of licensed professionals.

Learning Disabilities and the Law

Qualified students with learning disabilities may be entitled to educational accommodations, in much the same way as are students with other disabilities. The legal basis for this was established by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (PL 93112), which states:


The Americans with Disabilities Act, which reinforces and greatly extends the impact of previous legislation, was passed in 1990. The ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate against any qualified person with a disability.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 101-476) was also enacted in 1990. IDEA helps to ensure that more students with disabilities are well prepared for college.

The detailed implications of these laws are being refined in the courts, but to date, they have been interpreted in some cases to provide for the following for students with documented disabilities:

  • No discrimination during the admissions process for qualified applicants.
  • Modification of academic courses so that there is no discrimination on the basis of disability. While the overall goals for the course should remain the same for all students, those with disabilities may require modifications in the way they achieve those standards.

For some students, alternative testing is an appropriate accommodation. The most common modification is extended time; another adjustment may include converting a multiple choice exam to an essay exam, or vice versa.

Costs of required auxiliary services are to be borne by the college or university, not by the student. A number of recent court cases have tested the extent of the university’s financial obligation to students with special needs. It currently appears that the expenses of diagnosis and evaluation are to be paid by the student; the costs of adapted equipment, taped texts, readers, scribes and interpreters, if reasonable, are to be paid by the institution.

The University of the Pacific’s Policy

The University of the Pacific does not discriminate in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions, scholarships, loans, athletics, or other University activities or programs on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, handicap, sexual orientation or preference, sex or age. This notice is given pursuant to the requirements of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and amendments and other laws, orders and regulations governing discrimination. The University of the Pacific has designated the Director of Human Resources to coordinate the University’s efforts to comply with laws, orders and regulations governing discrimination. Any person with a complaint should contact in writing: Director of Human Resources, University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95211.