Welcome to the Equip for Equality Homepage
Find answers to a variety of disability related concerns, including information on how to seek individual assistance with disability-related rights issues, information on legislation and public policy that impacts the disability community, training to help you advocate for your own disability rights in a variety of circumstances, and information on ensuring that people with disabilities remain safe in the wide variety of settings where they live and work. This site also maintains a wealth of links and documents related to disability rights issues in its Resource Center.
Find out more about Equip for Equality in the About Us Section.
ACTION ALERT: Say Yes to Full Implementation of the ACA/Support HB 6253
The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorizes states to provide essential health benefits for low-income individuals who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. In accordance with the ACA, HB 6253 requires the State of Illinois to extend benefits under the medical assistance program to individuals aged 19-64 years who are not otherwise eligible and who qualify on the basis of income. HB 6253 will, for the first time, give low income adults without dependent children access to health benefits under Medicaid.
Providing health care coverage to previously uninsured individuals is vital to improving their health, safety, and well-being, vital to improving the efficiency and stability of Illinois’ health care system, and vital to Illinois’ full implementation of the ACA. Passage of HB 6253 will allow Illinois to receive full federal funding for the cost of providing these essential health benefits for the first three years and thereafter 90% funding.
Voice your support for full implementation of the ACA now. Call and/or write to members of the House Appropriations-Human Services Committee and your own legislators to urge them to vote “YES” on HB 6253.
To find members of the House Appropriations-Human Services Committee: http://www.ilga.gov/house/committees/members.asp?CommitteeID=880&GA=97 (Click on names to get contact information)
To find your state legislators and contact information: http://www.elections.il.gov/DistrictLocator/DistrictOfficialSearchByAddress.aspx
If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this bill, please contact Cheryl R. Jansen, Legislative Director, Equip for Equality at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-544-0464 ext. 6013.
Meeting to Discuss Issues Impacting Persons with Vision Impairments or BlindnessApril 25, 2013, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, 20 N. Michigan,Suite 300, Chicago, Illinois. Click to view details.
EQUIP FOR EQUALITY PARTCIPATES IN NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION DAY ON 9-25-12
Click to view Press Release.
Equip For Equality and the High School Association Reach Settlement Allowing Mary Kate Callahan and Other Swimmers with Disabilities to Compete in the 2012 Season
Girl Scouts Sued for Failing to Provide Sign Language Interpreter
Equip for Equality, the National Association of the Deaf and the pro bono law firm of Much Shelist filed suit on behalf of Megan Runnion against the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana seeking to secure an American Sign Language interpreter for meetings of her Girl Scout troop. Click to view Runnion Complaint and Press Release.
Equality for Kids Campaign
Equip for Equality is currently in the middle of the fourth year of the Equality for Kids Campaign. The Campaign secures critical funding for Equip for Equality's Special Education Clinic and other disability rights initiatives, and will allow the organization to increase its pro bono efforts on behalf of kids with disabilities. Please consider joining this important Campaign! Click this link for more information.
Link to "Illinois Radio Network's "Eye on Illinois" July 11 2012 interview with Public Policy VP Karen Ward regarding Medicaid Waiver for Medically Fragile Children and Closures of State Operated Developmental Centers"
Eye on Illinois" July 11 2012 interview
Illinois Medicaid Budget: EFE Implores Governor, Legislators, to Preserve Medicaid Home Services for Children, Long-term Care Eligibility and Prescription Drug Benefits
Link to EFE's letter to the Governor
EFE Urges Chicago Mayor to Maintain Mental Health Services as Clinics Close
Link to Zena Naiditch's Letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Equip for Equality and the Illinois Attorney General File Suit Against the Illinois High School Association - Lawsuit Seeks Equal Opportunity for Student Athletes with Disabilities
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, with Equip for Equality and a 16-year-old high school student from La Grange, today filed a joint lawsuit against the nonprofit Illinois High School Association to ensure student athletes with disabilities have full and equal opportunities to compete in interscholastic sports competitions throughout the state. Click to view Callahan Complaint and Press Release.
Attorney General Madigan Reaches Agreement with AMC Theatres - Settlement of Complaint Filed By Equip for Equality Provides Unprecedented Access for People with Disabilities to Go to the Movies
Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a landmark settlement with AMC Theatres, Illinois’ largest movie theater operator, that will provide personal captioning services and audio-description technology for movie-goers with hearing and vision disabilities at all of its theaters and its 460 movie screens. The settlement arose after Equip for Equality raised concerns with the Attorney General's Disability Rights Bureau about the unequal access to movie theaters for people who are deaf, hard of hearing and blind. Available documents include the Press Release and the Agreement.
Equip for Equality Urges Illinois to Honor its Commitment to Community Inclusion by Closing Jacksonville and Murray Developmental Centers
Link to Zena Naiditch's Letter to the Editor of the State Journal-Register
Equip for Equality Applauds Governor's Decision to Close Jacksonville Developmental Center
Link to Zena Naiditch's Letter to the Editor of the Chicago Tribune
Landmark Consent Decree Expands Opportunities for Nursing Home Residents with DisabilitiesA groundbreaking Consent Decree was approved today in Federal Court that will end the forced, long-standing and unnecessary segregation of people with physical disabilities or mental illness in nursing homes – affording them a real opportunity to live in their own homes and to participate fully in the community. Documents related to the case include: Proposed Consent Decree, Press Release, Case Fact Sheet.
National Report Reveals Lethal Consequences of Restraint Used on People with Disabilities
Equip for Equality released today its landmark study examining deaths resulting from physical and mechanical restraints of persons with disabilities. The Lethal Consequences of Restraints, a special report issued by Equip for Equality’s Abuse Investigation Unit, is a comprehensive and thorough investigation of deaths resulting from physical and mechanical restraints, representing a groundbreaking examination of deaths across disabilities, settings, ages, and genders. Click this link for press releases page.
EFE's 2012 Priorities
Please Provide Input on Equip for Equality's Proposed Priorities and Plan for Coming Year
Based on public comment and staff input, Equip for Equality has drafted its proposed priorities and plan for the upcoming year.
Court Approves Landmark Agreement Expanding Community Living Opportunities for People with Developmental Disabilities in IllinoisA groundbreaking Consent Decree in Ligas v. Hamos, finalized today in the federal district court in Chicago, will dramatically expand community living options for people with developmental disabilities in Illinois. Documents related to case include: Consent Decree, Press Release, Case Fact Sheet, and Form to confirm with the State an interest in being in the class and receiving community services. Click here for other documents related to the case.
Class Action Fights for Critical Accommodations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners in Illinois
A class action lawsuit was filed today in federal district court in Chicago in response to the systemic discrimination by the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) and its failure to provide accommodations to deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. Denials of accommodations include the IDOC’s refusal to provide American Sign Language interpreters, technological assistance and other alternate forms of communication. Without these accommodations, deaf and hard of hearing prisoners are endangered and deprived of meaningful access to religious services, healthcare, educational and vocational programs, telephones, televisions, library services, disciplinary proceedings, grievances and pre-release programs. Click here for a copy of the press release. Click here for a copy of the Complaint.
The DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center is pleased to announce an educational opportunity for 2011. This program will focus on legal developments under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Cost: All sessions are free.
TIME: Each session is 90 minutes in length. They are held from 1:00-2:30 p.m. Central Time Zone (CT) on dates specified.
This webinar series will utilize an on line conferencing system. The Online Conferencing System is a fully accessible integrated data and voice medium that enables users to conduct workshops over the Internet from just about any computer with a high speed network connection and web browser. Participation is enhanced with use of a personal microphone.
REGISTRATION IS OPEN at www.ada-audio.org (choose the ADA Legal Issues Webinar Link)
Click here for more information (Word Document).
Judge Approves Historic Agreement to Better Serve Individuals with Mental Illness in Illinois
A federal judge granted final approval to a Consent Decree, which represents a landmark agreement between the State of Illinois and attorneys representing thousands of persons with mental illnesses and will result in significant reforms of Illinois’ outmoded, overcrowded and scandalized nursing home system. The Consent Decree will begin a systemic process of giving approximately 4,300 persons with mental illnesses the choice to move out of large private state funded nursing homes known as “Institutions for Mentally Diseases” (IMDs) and into community-based settings with the supports they need to be successful. Further details about this case, including the Judge's decision and press release can be accessed by clicking on the case name above.
Precedent Setting Decision in Equip for Equality Service Animal Case
An Illinois Appellate Court issued a precedent setting decision regarding the rights of students with disabilities who use service animals in their schools. This decision, which provides the first appellate interpretation of the service animal provision of the Illinois School Code, will allow K.D., a seven year old child with autism, to continue to attend school with his service animal. To review the appellate court decision, click here.
Please Provide Input on Equip for Equality's Proposed Priorities and Plan for Coming Year
Based on public comment and staff input, Equip for Equality has drafted its proposed priorities and plan for the upcoming year. If you would like to review the proposed plan, click here. If you would like to comment on the proposed plan, click here.
Equip for Equality Files Federal Discrimination Suit So Carol Stream Girl Can Participate in Sporting Competitions
A Carol Stream family has initiated a federal lawsuit against Special Olympics Illinois and Community High School District 94 for denying their 17-year-old daughter, Jenny Youngwith, a full and equal opportunity to participate in basketball and track programs administered by the two organizations. Click here for a copy of the Complaint and click here for a copy of the press release.
Governor Quinn signs Brian's law to prevent injuries and deaths of people with disabilities. The new mortality review process advances Equip for Equality's recommendations following an in-depth investigation of 13 deaths, including the death of Brian Kent.
Scathing Reports by U. S. Department of Justice Find Two State-Run Developmental Disability Institutions Guilty of Broad Constitutional Rights Violations
In response to complaints by Equip for Equality, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued two reports sharply criticizing the treatment of people with disabilities living at two Illinois state-run institutions, the Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park and the Choate Developmental Center in Anna. DOJ found egregious violations of the Constitutional and federal statutory rights of people living in the institutions as did Equip for Equality’s Abuse Investigation Unit, including the right to be safe and free from harm and unlawful restraint, to receive adequate medical and psychological care, habilitation services and transition planning, and the right to live in the most integrated setting. Click here to be linked to the Justice Department report on Howe Developmental Center. Click here to be linked to the Justice Department report on Choate Developmental Center. Click here to review the Abuse Investigation Unit Reports related to state-run institutions. Click here for Equip for Equality press releases regarding Howe.
Fact Sheet: Transitioning People with Disabilities to New Residential Settings
This fact sheet is intended to assist you and your family member with a disability in making decisions and plans to transition to another residential setting.
Medigap Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries under 65
People under 65 who are Medicare beneficiaries may need to purchase supplemental insurance in order to help pay for gaps in Medicare coverage. “Medigap” policies are a certain type of supplemental insurance available to Medicare beneficiaries. These Medigap policies are standardized and regulated by both Federal and State law.
Rules regarding Medigap policies for those under 65 differ from state to state. In Illinois, as of June 1, 2008, all Medigap plans must provide coverage to Illinois Medicare beneficiaries under 65 at a rate no higher than the highest rate charged to Medicare beneficiaries over 65. In other words, people under 65 seeking these Medigap policies cannot be charged a higher rate than people over 65.
Generally, a person under 65 who qualifies for Medicare can enroll in these plans for the first six months after they enroll in Medicare Part B. For more information on Medigap plans and Medicare in general, please go to the website of Health and Disability Advocates: www.hdadvocates.org/index.asp
Governor Quinn Signs Law to End the Unauthorized Sterilization of Adults With Disabilities
Equip for Equality?s Judicial Victory Leads to Legislative Reform for Adults with Disabilities Under Guardianship. On August 11, 2009, Governor Quinn signed HB 2290 into law by enacting Public Act 96-272 which bans the sterilization of adults with disabilities under guardianship without due process. Click here for press release.
Illinois School District Invests Millions to Remedy Longstanding ADA Violations That Prevented Access for Disabled Dad
District 211 Implements Systemic Accessibility Changes After Equip for Equality Files Complaint with U.S. Department of Education
Illinois Township High School District 211 has signed an Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights resolving a Complaint filed by Michael Lyons, his wife Christine, their daughter Becky, and Equip for Equality for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. After Equip for Equality raised concerns, District 211 began to address accessibility issues and completed most of the renovations by the time the Agreement was finalized last month. Major accessibility improvements were made, or will be made, at Conant High School, Schaumburg High School, and the District’s Administration Building. Click here for a documents related to the case.
TCF Bank to Install Talking ATMS and Enhance Other Services for Customers with Visual Impairments - Bank Announces Collaboration with the Illinois Council of the Blind and Equip for Equality
TCF Bank, the Illinois Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, and Equip for Equality announced today that TCF has launched a major initiative intended to provide easier access to its banking services for individuals with visual impairments. The program will include the installation of Talking ATMs and greater accessibility to printed materials.
Update: On September 5, 2008, following repeated calls for the closure of the decertified Howe Developmental Center by Equip for Equality and a number of advocacy groups along with people with disabilities, the Department of Human Services announced closure of Howe and the Tinley Park Mental Health Hospital.The doors of the Howe Developmental Center will close following repeated calls for the closure of the institution based on numerous reports detailing abysmal conditions leading to the injuries and deaths, millions of dollars wasted as a result of Howe’s decertification from the federal Medicaid program, and an ongoing investigation by the United States Department of Justice. To download/view the press release related to the closure announce, visit Abuse Investigation Unit reports and booklets page under publications. (posted September 12, 2008) Also available in PDF format.
Young Man with Severe Disabilities Wins Right to Services from State Enabling Him to Live at Home.
Equip for Equality Obtains Federal Injunction Against the State for Violation of the ADA's Integration Mandate.Following two years of federal court litigation under the ADA's "integration mandate," Equip for Equality has obtained a permanent injunction to enable its client, David Grooms, to receive services he needs to remain in his home. The order overturned a decision by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (“HFS”) to cut more than half of David’s Medicaid benefits when he turned twenty-one-years old. U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer ordered the agency's Director, Barry Maram, to restore "immediately" the level of skilled nursing services provided to David prior to his 21st birthday.
- Press Release (Word document)
- Federal Complaint (PDF format)
- Judge Pallmeyer's Memorandum Opinion and Order (PDF format)
Review reveals that Illinois’ Investigatory system does not provide basic protections to people with disabilities of all ages and in all settings.
Equip for Equality Equip for Equality has released a special report from its Abuse Investigation Unit entitled Ensuring the Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities: Filing the Gaps in Illinois' System that Investigates Allegations of Abuse and Neglect.
The prevalence of violence against people with disabilities highlights the critical need for an effective investigatory structure, which will ensure that children and adults with disabilities have basic protections against abuse, neglect and exploitation wherever they live or receive services. This report provides an overview of Illinois' investigatory system, identifying critical gaps and inadequacies in the structure by which abuse, neglect and exploitation are dealt with in Illinois. It also offers clear recommendations to address the identified problems in order to ensure basic protections for people with disabilities.
Chicago (June 6, 2008)- Equip for Equality’s Abuse and Investigation Unit just released a special report: Life and Death In State-operated Developmental Disability Institutions. Included are the shocking details connected to the needless death of a young person at the Ann M. Kiley Development Center. Additionally, there’s a disturbing summary of 12 more deaths at three other state-run institutions, highlighting the dangers endemic to Illinois’ state-operated system of institutional care.
In response to these deaths, Equip for Equality calls for the State to immediately enhance the scrutiny of state-run institutions by establishing teams of independent observers and medical experts to insure safety and quality of care and to examine all deaths in an effort to prevent further tragedies. EFE also strongly recommends that Illinois give up its over-reliance on large, state-run institutions and expand community-based services for people with disabilities.
Equip for Equality Wins Reproductive Rights Victory for Woman with Disabilities
In a precedent setting case, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld a trial court’s denial of a petition for involuntary sterilization of a woman with traumatic brain injury and other disabilities. The appellate court also upheld the decision to deny attorney’s fee for the guardian on appeal and orderd that the trial court review the original award of over $100,000 in attorney’s fees paid out of the estate. Click here for a copy of the Appellate Court's decision.
United State Department of Justice Investigates EFE's Complaints of Unconstitutional Conditions At the Choate and Howe Developmental Centers
Following submission of two complaints detailing the findings of the Abuse Investigation Unit as a result of in depth investigations at the Choate and Howe Developmental Centers, two of Illinois' nine state fun institutions for people with developmental disabilities, the Justice Department has opened investigations at each institution under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. In each complaint, Equip for Equality documented longstanding histories of significant problems resulting in deaths and serious injuries. The complaints also documented serious deprivations of statutory and constitutional rights guaranteed to people in state operated facilities including the right to be free from abuse and neglect, and unlawful restraint as well as the right appropriate services and programs. Equip for Equality continues to call upon the State to close each institution. Download/view relevant files and links on the Choate and Howe Developmental Center Files page. (Posted APRIL 25, 2008)
Today, a class action lawsuit was filed against Illinois state officials under the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to provide community services to people with disabilities living in nursing homes. This is the third class action filed by Equip for Equality, Access Living and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois seeking to increase the choices of people with all disabilities to live in the community. Download/view the complaint along with other relevant files on the Colbert v. Blagojevich Case Files page. (Posted August 22, 2007)
Update: Equip for Equality Urgently Calls for Closure of Dangerous State-Run Institution for People with Disabilities Following Additional Deaths
Citing further evidence of substandard care and critical errors by staff at Howe Developmental Center in connection with 3 more deaths at the state-run institution, Equip for Equality is now calling for the State to take urgent action to close the institution, ensure the safety of the individuals living there and prevent further deaths.
After a structured agreement with Equip for Equality in May 2005 to provide more accessible services to people who are blind or sight impaired, LaSalle Bank has installed Talking ATMs in locations in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. All of the Illinois installations have been completed. Talking ATMs allow for users with sight impairments to follow audio commands through headphones.
View an alphabetical list by city of all LaSalle Talking ATM locations to date. (Posted January 30, 2007)