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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Team removes barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in community life and pursuing their goals.  The Civil Rights Team:

  • Challenges discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws, including in employment; transportation; voting; state and local government programs; access to private businesses; and housing.
  • Promotes community integration. 
  • Protects the fundamental right to self-determination, including guardianship defense and restoration of rights; and the right to marry and raise children.

Recent case highlights and accomplishments

  • Community integration:  About 30,000 people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illness and physical disabilities living in nursing homes and other private institutions may move to supportive and integrated housing and receive community services. This is the result of the settlement of three ADA class action lawsuits filed by Equip for Equality and its co-counsel. 
  • Prisoners’ rights:  Equip for Equality and its co-counsel filed two class action lawsuits on behalf of prisoners with disabilities whose civil rights are being violated.  In one case,  prisoners who are deaf are not receiving sign language interpreters for communication.  In the other, thousands of prisoners with mental illness are not receiving mental health services and are living under inhumane conditions.  Both cases are ongoing.
  • Graduate education:  A student with quadriplegia was able to take the Law School Admissions Test with accommodations provided after Equip for Equality wrote to the Law School Admissions Council about its obligations under the ADA.
  • Employment:  A worker with a neurological disorder who wears a leg brace secured  workplace accommodations after he asked for them in a letter to his employer.  He received advice and assistance from Equip for Equality.
  • State athletic competition:  A high school athlete who uses a wheelchair won access to the state swimming and track competitions as result of a settlement.  This case was filed in collaboration with the attorney general.
  • Entertainment:  AMC, the state’s largest cinema operator, will make 460 movie screens at 37 theaters accessible for people who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing as a result of an agreement reached in collaboration with the attorney general.
  • Housing:  EFE successfully represented a woman with mental illness in her effort to keep her emotional support animal in her subsidized housing, which has a no-pets policy.
  • Medical appliance for independence:  A woman with advanced multiple sclerosis secured a unique power wheelchair recommended by her doctor so that she would be able to maintain her independence, after Equip for Equality represented her at a third-level administrative appeal.
  • Access to local business:  A man who is blind was denied access to a retail store because he uses a service animal.  After EFE filed a complaint with city government, the business adopted an ADA-compliant policy and trained staff along with other remedies.
  • Right to self-determination:  The guardian of a woman with an anxiety disorder required the woman and her three children, over her objections, to live in an unsafe and unsanitary apartment that was making them ill.  After finding that she was able to make decisions, Equip for Equality represented her in probate court.  The court removed the guardianship, and she now lives in a nice apartment in a safer neighborhood.
  • Responsibility of police to protect woman with mental illness taken into custody:  Equip for Equality filed a friend-of-the-court brief involving a young woman with bipolar disorder whom police released without medical care into an unsafe neighborhood.  After she was released, she was sexually assaulted and fell from a multiple-story building, sustaining permanent injuries.

Last updated: May 04, 2018

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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