Public Testimony on Senate Bill 585


TCDD logo   Mary Durheim, Chair
Andrew D. Crim, Vice Chair
Beth Stalvey, MPH, PhD, Executive Director

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Senate Higher Education Committee
Public Testimony on Senate Bill 585
April 10, 2019

Hello, my name is Ashley Ford and I am a Public Policy and Communications Specialist with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD). TCDD is established by state and federal law and is governed by 27 Governor-appointed board members, 60 percent of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. The Council’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.

TCDD supports increasing opportunities for, and protecting of the civil rights and well-being of, people with developmental disabilities. TCDD finds SB 585 to be in alignment with these principles, especially the equal access provisions provided in Section 51.293 of the committee substitute. The inclusion of students with disabilities in this bill is very important and timely.

Research suggests that more students with disabilities are pursuing higher education than ever before, and recent legislative changes, such as those in the Higher Education Opportunity Act and Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, have the potential to increase the number and diversity of this population. In 2008, students with disabilities represented nearly 11 percent of all postsecondary students.1

The National Council on Disability released a study titled “Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities” in January 2018. This study found that students with disabilities are not “on the radar” of colleges in their sexual assault prevention efforts, policies, or procedures for response and support after an assault. This includes the absence of procedures to communicate with victims who are Deaf or hard of hearing and inaccessible support services for students with mobility disabilities. Similarly, NCD’s study found that students with disabilities are effectively invisible in federal research and grant programs on campus sexual assault.2 These findings come against the backdrop of a recent study by the Association of American Universities that revealed that 31.6 percent of undergraduate females with disabilities reported nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation, compared to 18.4 percent of undergraduate females without a disability.3

I’m grateful to the Committee for hearing SB 585 today; it’s appropriate since April is Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month. The bill demonstrates that Texas is aware of the sexual assault epidemic impacting the disability community and makes it easier for student survivors to access timely care, support, and justice.

Please feel free to contact TCDD for additional information or if we can be of additional service.


Ashley Ford
Public Policy and Communications Specialist
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities


1. Government Accountability Office. (2009, October). Higher Education and Disability: Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students. Retrieved from

2. National Council on Disability. (2018). Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities. Retrieved from

3. AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct Fact Sheet. Retrieved from