Durham College is committed to making every student feel welcome at the campus and that includes students who may require service animals.
While there are many policies at Durham College about accessibility, service animals and guide dogs are under the Customer Service Standard policy, according to Meri-Kim Oliver, Vice President of Student Affairs at the college.
There has been discussion about a separate service animal policy and the college has been taking steps towards making that policy. However, it is a very complex process, according to Oliver.
There is no registration of a service animal required, according to Oliver. With the discussion of a separate policy for service animals, there may be a request for registration of the service animal at the college. This is so that the college can keep track of the number of animals on campus. Currently however, Oliver says that there are only a couple service animals at the college, if she had to guess.
“There are two big things that get complicating. One is legal requirements and restrictions because the college has things like, kitchens for training, we have labs, we have science and health labs and there are different restrictions that apply to having animals in those spaces,” Oliver says.
A service animal is problematic when there is a need for sterility in an environment. There needs to be thought put into what to do when there are health and safety regulations that are compromised because of service animals, according to Oliver.
Another challenge that is faced with having service animals and guide dogs at the college is that there may be students with severe allergies on the campus. These students have to be accommodated as well, if they are in the same class as someone who requires a service animal.
“It’s one of those accommodation pieces that is much more complicated. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘oh you get time and a half on an exam.’ It’s not that easy and so we’ve left it with those statements, that we will accommodate and a person can have their service animal or guide dog,” Oliver says.
Although the college has never been faced with the task of trying to accommodate both somebody with severe allergies and somebody who requires a service animal, the Access and Support Centre would be there to help students in that situation in figuring out how both students would be able to still take the course that they are in, according to Oliver.
While service animals are welcome at the college, they must be trained and with their owners at all times, according to Oliver.
All policies at Durham College were under a full review, last year. This includes Accessibility, Accommodation for Students, Customer Service Standard, the Integrated Standard and the Emergency Response. These new policies were taken to the Student Association and the accessibility-coordinating group. Whenever there is a policy that is involving the students, it is taken to the SA for its input. After that the policies are taken for a full legal review with lawyers, according to Oliver.
All of the changes that were made were approved last August.