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


EFE’s Commitment to Fight Against Systemic Racism & Inequality

A Message from Our CEO

This past week, thousands of people came together, not just here in Chicago, but all across the country. In one loud, anguished voice, they stood up to call out the inequities of society that led to the horrific murder of George Floyd.

And yet, it was also about so much more. The protests were sparked by one incident, but they are fueled by generations upon generations of inequities, racism, injustice, and systemic oppression. For many, America never has been and never will be the land of the free because of the dark and terrible undercurrent of prejudice that has flowed throughout our history from its inception.

For 35 years, Equip for Equality has fought against these injustices. We strive to advance the human and civil rights of children and adults with disabilities. Many of our clients are people of color who face additional discrimination due to race, ethnicity, and poverty. Each year, we help thousands of individuals who could never afford an attorney.

We have seen firsthand how law enforcement and correctional officers can abuse their power in a system that disproportionately impacts communities of color and people with disabilities. Our efforts have included litigation to stop the Chicago Police Department’s use of excessive force on people of color and those with disabilities; monitoring and representation of youth in juvenile justice facilities to ensure that they have access to an appropriate special education; advocating that prisoners who are deaf are able to communicate and access the same services and benefits as other inmates; and a class action on behalf of prisoners with serious mental illness to ensure they receive critical mental health services, and just as important, that their voices are heard by the authorities.

We remain steadfast in our work to achieve sustainable racial and social equity, justice, safety, and security for people in all communities.

We recognize that the fight for social justice does not end when a person with a disability is able to receive a reasonable accommodation at work, choose the community that they want to live in, or attend a school barrier free. Rather, social justice is an ongoing struggle, not remedied through addressing particular situations, but enduring because of our country’s racist culture and systemic inequities. I know that right now, many of you are asking yourselves, “What else can I do?” I am too.

We are living in deeply troubled times. We did not get here overnight, and there is no simple fix for tomorrow. Some people simply want to sweep this movement under the rug and go back to “normal.” Others feel powerless to help. When we are overwhelmed with anger, rage, and sadness, it’s easy to become paralyzed by our grief. But we cannot allow the return of “normal.”

This will be a moment that historians look back on. Generations from now, children will read about it in textbooks. It’s up to us to decide how it will be remembered. Will our children and grandchildren read about society’s flicker of hope that was too easily extinguished? Or will they learn that the American people put aside their differences, and united in one loud voice, called out for an end to injustice?

We must commit now to real change; to ending systemic racism; to ending injustice; and to ensuring the human and civil rights of every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, disability or any other marginalized identity. As Equip for Equality continues our decades long advocacy for the equality of people with disabilities, we also re-commit to using our resources and our privilege to ensure that our efforts include fighting for the rights, dignity and safety of all people of color.

Thank you,
Zena Naiditch
President & CEO
Equip for Equality

Last updated: June 04, 2020

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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