It is the policy of the Howard County Junior College District to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504, Subpart E of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 unless such action shall pose an undue burden or would result in a fundamental alteration of programs of the district.
Procedures and Documentation
Services for students with disabilities are available through the office of the campus Accessibility Services Coordinator. Students must present official documentation of qualifying disabilities in order to request accommodations. Qualifying students should contact the campus Accessibility Services Coordinator to start the process. Students must complete an Academic Accommodation Request Form. The campus Accessibility Services Coordinator will meet with the student to determine reasonable, appropriate, and effective accommodations based on the disability and courses. Accommodations are determined each semester based on the courses taken.
The Accessibility Services Coordinators will maintain the files of students who provide information. Files are strictly confidential and their content inaccessible unless a student gives permission for disclosure. When asked, the Accessibility Services Coordinator will only verify that a file exists and that the accommodations sought are supported by the documentation.
The following positions are designated Accessibility Services Coordinators for the college:
- Provost, SWCD – District Accessibility Services Coordinator
- Director of Human Resources – Employee Coordinator
- District Chief Operations and Safety/Security Officer – Facilities Coordinator
- Accessibility Services Coordinator – Big Spring, Lamesa, San Angelo, SWCD
Student Rights and Responsibilities
Students have the right:
- To have equal access to educational programs, services and activities.
- To request reasonable accommodations.
- To be permitted to discuss problems related to his/her accommodation/s with the Accessibility Services Coordinator and, if necessary, to seek redress through appropriate administrative channels.
Students have the responsibility:
- To schedule a meeting with the Accessibility Services Coordinator to discuss the nature and impact of his/her disabilities.
- To provide notice for all accommodation requests and a class schedule at least 10 days before the first day of classes.
- To provide appropriate documentation of disability.
- To initiate all requests for services and/or accommodations through the Accessibility Services Coordinator.
- To provide for his/her own personal, independent living needs and other personal disability-related needs.
- To comply with college ADA guidelines.
College Rights and Responsibilities
Howard College has the right:
- To determine the appropriateness of documentation and requests for accommodation on a case-by-case basis, using the professional judgment of the Accessibility Services Coordinator.
- To request additional information and/or documentation to determine eligibility for services.
- To share relevant information regarding the student’s disability with those who have a legitimate educational interest.
- To deny a request for accommodation or withdraw an accommodation when a student fails to meet the college’s academic and institutional criteria.
Howard College has the responsibility:
- To reduce or eliminate physical, academic, and attitudinal barriers.
- To assure that every student receives an equal level of service and expertise from the college, regardless of campus or type of enrollment, by systematizing intra-campus communication and support.
- To serve as an advocate for students with disabilities and to ensure equal access.
- To consult with faculty regarding academic accommodations and compliance with legal responsibilities.
- To develop written policies and guidelines regarding procedures for determining and accessing “reasonable accommodations.”
- To provide services that are based on the institution’s mission and/or service philosophy.
- To prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.
- To assure the safety and confidentiality of all documentation related to student’s disabilities.
Faculty Rights and Responsibilities
Howard College faculty have the right:
- Classroom Behavior - All college students must adhere to the Student Standards of Conduct. Infractions of these standards should be directed to the judicial officer. The judicial officer will consult with the Accessibility Services Coordinator regarding students with disabilities who violate the Student Standards of Conduct.
- Written Agreements - Faculty members may request a written agreement before allowing any student to tape or otherwise record a class.
- Challenge of Accommodations - A faculty member has the right to challenge an accommodation request with the appropriate Dean and campus Accessibility Services Coordinator if he/she believes the student is not qualified and/or if the accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration of the class.
Howard College faculty have the responsibility:
- Instructor Notification Form - Faculty should not provide academic adjustments for a disability without a notice from the Accessibility Services Coordinator certifying that the student is qualified to receive services and identifying the nature of the accommodations.
- Referral to the Accessibility Services Coordinator - If a student notifies a faculty member that he/she has a disability or takes documentation to the instructor, it is the faculty member’s responsibility to refer the student with his/her documentation to the appropriate Accessibility Services Coordinator. If a student is not performing up to standards and the instructor thinks the student may have a learning disability, he/she should refer the student to the Accessibility Services Coordinator.
- Faculty members must consult with the Accessibility Services Coordinator, not the student, if there are questions or concerns about designated accommodations.
Howard College, pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, will make every effort to provide “reasonable modification” in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability. The college is not required to take any action that it can demonstrate would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens. The decision that compliance would result in such alteration or burdens must be made by the president or designee after considering all resources available for use in the funding and operation of the service, program, or activity and must be accompanied by a written statement of the reasons for reaching that conclusion.
The ADA does not require a public entity to permit an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, programs, or activities of the public entity when that individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. “Direct threat” means a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices, or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided below.
In determining whether an individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, a public entity must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain:
- The nature, duration, and severity of the risk;
- The probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and
- Whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or services will mitigate the risk
Highland Council for the Deaf
Highland Council for the Deaf is an agency in Big Spring that provides interpreting services, message relay services, information and referral. These services are available to students residing in the Big Spring community.
Texas Workforce Commission - Vocational Rehabilitation Services
The Vocational Rehabilitation Services Division of the Texas Workforce Commission provides services for people with disabilities to help them prepare for, obtain, retain or advance in employment.
Service and Emotional Support Animals
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or tasks a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.” A service dog can be any breed or size. It might wear specialized equipment such as a backpack, harness, or special collar or leash, but this is not a legal requirement. If a dog meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government or a training program.
The ADA further states that “dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”
The ADA allows service animals accompanying persons with disabilities to be anywhere that is open to the public on College premises. College premises shall mean any land and/or facility owned, leased, rented and/or occupied Howard College. There may be individual exceptions in places where the presence of the service animal may compromise safety or a sterile environment and/or interfere with the fundamental nature of the activities being conducted in which the service animal would be not permitted.
The individual’s disability may not be visible. When it is not obvious what service an animal provides only limited inquiries are allowed. College personnel may ask two questions in determining the validity of the presence of the animal: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of your disability, and (2) what work, or task has the dog been trained to perform. College personnel cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Requirements of Service Animals and their Owners
The animal cannot pose a direct threat to the health and safety of persons while on College premises.
Local ordinances regarding animals apply to service animals, including requirements for immunization, licensing, noise, restraint, and at-large animals.
The owner must be in full control of the animal at all times. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
The owner is responsible for cleaning up the animal’s waste and fluids and disposing of such in outside trash containers only. Waste disposal via College plumbing is prohibited. The owner should always carry equipment sufficient to clean up and properly dispose of the animal’s waste and fluids. Owners who are not physically able to pick up and dispose of the animal’s waste and fluids are responsible for making all necessary arrangements for assistance. The College is not responsible for these services.Additionally, the animal is not to be bathed or its cage/crate, or bedding cleaned using College Housing or College facilities.
The owner is liable for damage caused by the animal.
The owner is responsible for instructing others on appropriate interactions with the animal and setting clear expectations.
A service animal may be excluded from any authorized area and its owner may be subject to disciplinary action if, including, but not limited to:
The service animal displays aggressive or disruptive behavior or noises and effective action is not taken to control it; unless said noise/behavior(s) are part of the needed disability service to the owner;
The service animal is not housebroken;
The service animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others;
The service animal is not in good health, well-groomed, or cared for;
The service animal infringes inappropriately into other’s personal space;
The owner intentionally uses the service animal to block identified fire/emergency exits.
NOTE: In the event that restriction or removal of a service animal is determined to be necessary, every effort will be made to assure that the individual still has access to the programs, services, or activities of the College without the animal.
Service Animal in Training
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) assures people with disabilities who are accompanied by service animals that they will not be excluded from public places or activities, nor charged any additional fees, because they are accompanied by their service dog. However, the ADA does not provide the same protection to those who are training service animals (that is, the ADA assures access for the handler/partner only if the dog is fully trained to give some disability-related service).
Texas state law (HRC §121.003) provides that a service animal in training shall not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer.
Because Texas state law does not clarify further its use of the term “in training,” the College has established policy, based on accepted practices suggested by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). A service-dog-in-training is a dog, accompanied by its trainer, that is undergoing individual training to provide specific disability-related work or service for an individual with a disability. This does not include obedience training or socialization of puppies who may later become service animals (generally 15-18 months). Thus, adult dogs are recognized as being “in training” to provide disability-specific emotional support only after they have completed an earlier period of socialization (obedience training, being house broken, getting acclimated to public places and every day activities as pets).
Service animals in training in Texas are only given access when they are in the company of an approved trainer, but Texas Law does not clarify as to who qualifies as an approved trainer. Therefore, Howard College has adopted the ADI definition of Assistance Dog Trainer as being “a person affiliated with a program who is recognized by that program as being directly responsible for the training and conduct of an assistance dog in training.”
SAIT cannot be in-residence in College housing, nor be present in other areas of campus except those public areas where all individuals are welcome to bring pets. Similarly, puppies who are being raised/trained in preparation for participating in formal service animal training are not permitted in College housing or on campus except in public areas where pets are allowed.
Student Complaint Procedures
Complaints arising under this policy shall be handled under the provisions provided in the Student Handbook under “Student Complaints”.
The College reserves the right to modify this policy as needed. For additional information concerning the use of a service animal or other accommodations and services, please contact Accessibility Services.
Emotional Support Animals
Howard College recognizes the importance of emotional support animals for certain residents with qualifying disabilities. This policy provides on-campus residents with a documented disability the reasonable accommodation to have a live-in emotional support animal in the residence hall. This accommodation is meant to allow for full participation and equal access to the residential experience. Set forth below are specific requirements and guidelines concerning the appropriate use of and protocols associated with Emotional Support Animals in our residence halls. Howard College reserves the right to amend this policy as circumstances require with notice posted for the residents.
Distinction between Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal
Emotional Support Animal. “Emotional Support Animals” (also known a comfort or therapy animals) are animals that enable a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy student housing by alleviating the symptoms of the disability. There must be an identifiable relationship between the disability and the emotional support the animal provides. Unlike a Service Animal, an Emotional Support Animal might not be trained to perform a specific function or task and it does not accompany a person with a disability at all times. Although Emotional Support Animals may be considered for limited access to student housing, they are not permitted in other areas of the college (e.g. libraries, academic buildings, classrooms, labs, student center, etc.).
Pet - A “Pet” is an animal kept for ordinary use and companionship. A pet is not considered an emotional support animal and is not covered by this policy. Residents are not permitted to have pets in the residence halls, this includes aquatic fish.
Approved Animal - An “Approved Animal” is an Emotional Support Animal for use in the residential environment that has been granted as a reasonable accommodation due to the impact of the Handler’s disability.
Handler - The “Handler” is the student who has requested the accommodation and has received approval to bring the Approved Animal into the residence halls.
Exceptions and Exclusions
The housing department at Howard College may place restrictions on, and may exclude, an Emotional Support Animal. Restrictions or exclusions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. An animal may be excluded if:
- It is out of control and effective action cannot control it or is not taken to control it;
- Its size is prohibitive in relation to the size of the residence hall;
- It is not housebroken;
- It poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable modifications. An animal with a history of biting or aggression may be considered to pose such a threat;
- Its presence fundamentally alters the nature of programs, services, or activities in student housing;
- It barks, whines, howls, or makes other noises in an excessive, continuous fashion so as to interfere with the reasonable use or enjoyment of the residence hall.
- Howard College generally does not accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, spiders or other animals/species that pose health risks from zoonotic diseases or safety concerns regarding containment that cannot be sufficiently mitigated for inclusion in the communal living setting.
- Other reasons as may be determined by the department.
Conflicting Health Conditions
Students with medical condition(s) that are affected by animals (e.g., respiratory diseases, asthma, severe allergies) are asked to contact the housing coordinator immediately. The Handler and Approved Animal may be moved to a different room if another resident of the current apartment or surrounding apartments are affected by the animal at any time with 48 hours notice. The student with the medical condition may also be asked to change rooms instead of the Handler and the Emotional Support Animal with 48 hours notice. The decision of who moves will be that of the housing coordinator.
Non-Health Condition Reassignment Request
All roommates of the Handler must sign an acknowledgement of the Approved Animal assigned to qualifying roommate(s). In the event that one or more roommates do not approve of the conditions, either the Handler and Approved Animal or the non-approving roommates may be moved to a different location with a 48 hours notice. This provision is only applicable for students residing in a shared room and/or apartment.
Handler’s Responsibilities in Student Housing
- The Handler must complete a Disability Housing Accommodation Request Form for the approved animal. Any student found harboring (giving food, shelter or water) to an unapproved animal will be fined $200 per violation even if the approval is granted at a later time.
- The Handler is responsible for assuring that the Approved Animal does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for students who reside there.
- The Handler is liable and responsible for the actions of the Approved Animal including bodily injury or property damage. The Handler’s responsibility covers but is not limited to cleaning or replacement of furniture, carpet, windows, and wall covering. The Handler is expected to cover these costs at the time of repair.
- The Handler is responsible for any expenses incurred for cleaning beyond standard cleaning or repairs to the college student housing facilities that are assessed after the student and animal vacate the residence. As with all accounting processes, Howard College will bill the Handler’s student account.
- The Handler must notify the housing department in writing if the Approved Animal is no longer needed or is no longer in residence. To replace an Approved Animal, the Handler must file an updated Disability Housing Accommodation Request Form.
- The Handler’s residence may be inspected for fleas, ticks or other pests during normal Health and Safety Inspections or as needed. If fleas, ticks or other pests are detected, the residence facility will be treated using approved fumigation methods by a college-approved pest control service provider. The Handler will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment beyond standard pest management in the residence facility.
- Due to maintenance or other Housing staff needing to occasionally enter student rooms, it is imperative that the Approved Animal is housed in an appropriate enclosure or kennel within the students assigned room at all times while the Handler is away. The enclosure must be of an appropriate size for the animal. Caged and kenneled animals are to be kept in appropriate cages with flooring and liner to prevent any damage to floors and to allow sanitary removal of pet waste.
- Approved Animals may only be left unattended in the handler’s assigned room. Approved Animals may not be left overnight in a residence hall to be cared for by another student. Animals must be taken with the student if they leave campus for a prolonged period - dogs especially should not be left for long time periods unattended throughout the day.
- Housing officials have the ability to relocate Handler and Approved Animal as necessary according to current contractual agreements.
- The Handler understands reasonable accommodations which may constitute an exception to a policy that otherwise would prohibit having an animal does not constitute an exception to any other policy.
- The Handler agrees that Emotional Support Animals are not allowed indoors on the campus other than in the Handler’s assigned residence hall.
- The Handler understands that Howard College reserves the right to remove an animal that is unruly or disruptive (e.g. barking, running around, bringing attention to itself, jumping up on people, whining, squawking, scratching, chewing, being aggressive or not being properly housebroken).
- Should the Approved Animal be removed from the premises for any reason, the Handler is expected to fulfill his/her housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.
- Care and supervision of the animal are the responsibility of the Handler who benefits from the Approved Animal’s use. The Handler is responsible for the health and hygiene of the animal, including daily grooming and occasional baths as may be required to keep animal odor to a minimum. Handlers should not use the sinks or showers in the residence hall to bath the Approved Animal.
- The Handler is also responsible for ensuring the cleanup of the animal’s waste and, when appropriate, must toilet the animal in areas designated by Howard College. Indoor animal waste, such as cat litter, must be placed in a sturdy plastic bag and securely tied up before being disposed of in an outside trash receptacle. Litter boxes should be placed on mats so that waste is not tracked onto carpeted surfaces. Failure to clean up the waste of your Emotional support Animal will result in a $50 fine per incident. Repeated incidents may also result in additional fines and removal of the Approved Animal.
- In accordance with local ordinances and regulations the Approved Animal must be immunized against diseases common to that type of animal. Dogs must have current vaccination against rabies and wear a rabies vaccination tag. Local licensing requirements must be followed.
- Handler and Approved Animal must comply with all federal, state, county, and city laws, policies and ordinances.
- When outside the Handler’s room, the Approved Animal must be on a leash, if appropriate for the animal, at all times unless the leash would inhibit the animal’s ability to be of service.
- Cruelty to animals is a violation of policy. Beating, neglecting, or otherwise harming an animal in your care will result in the animal being removed.
- Animals are not allowed in common areas. The Approved Animal is to remain in the Handler’s room unless it is to take the Approved Animal outside to eliminate waste. If the Approved Animal must leave the Handler’s room, all policies listed above still apply.
- Other Conditions: Howard College may place other reasonable conditions or restrictions on the Approved Animals depending on the nature and characteristics of the animal.
- Any violation of the above rules may result in immediate removal of the animal from Student Housing and may be reviewed through the judicial process.
Procedure for Requesting Housing Accommodations
Emotional Support Animals may not be brought into the student housing facility without written approval of the Campus Accessibility Services Coordinator. The Campus Accessibility Services Coordinator will consult with the Housing Coordinator prior to rendering a decision on the request.
- Howard College will accept and consider requests for reasonable accommodation in College housing at any time. The individual making the request for accommodation should complete and provide the Request Form to Accessibility Services as soon as practicably possible before moving into College housing. However, if the request for accommodation is made fewer than 60 days before the individual intends to move into College housing, Howard College cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the individual’s accommodation needs during the first semester or term of occupancy.
- If the need for the accommodation arises when an individual already resides in College housing, he/she should contact Accessibility Services and complete the Request Form as soon as practicably possible. Howard College cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the accommodation needs during the semester or term in which the request is received. The handler must complete the registration process each academic year for the Approved Animal to remain eligible to live in the residence halls.
Emergency Situations and Emotional Support Animals
Policy requires unattended ESAs to be kept in a crate. If a student is not currently in their room, then the ESA should be crated. The crate should provide reasonable shelter for the animal.
- If a student is in their room, they should crate the animal before leaving the room for the emergency shelter. If possible, they could put the crate under their bed or cover it with a towel/blanket to further protect the animal in the rare event of a window breaking.
- If a student is outside walking their dog, they should move inside and put the animal in the nearest closed room available before moving themselves to the shelter location.
- ESAs are not allowed to shelter with humans for the following reasons:
- Some students have severe allergies to animals. Keeping them in confined spaces for prolonged periods of time creates the risk of serious allergic reactions.
- If kept confined for prolonged periods of time (especially during inclement weather), animals may become agitated and/or aggressive. This puts people and other animals at risk of harm.
- Animals are less likely to relieve themselves in crates.
- Students with ESAs can rely on friends and classmates to provide a reasonable level of emotional support in the midst of an emergency situation. Their ESA is not the only thing capable of doing so.
- Human life should take priority over animal life.