FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Disability Rights Organization Opens Office in Carbondale
Public invited to March 6th Open House for Equip for Equality's newest office serving people with disabilities
CARBONDALE (February 8, 2007) -- Equip for Equality (EFE), a statewide disability rights organization, celebrates the opening of its newly established Carbondale office on March 6. The public is invited to attend the Grand Opening from 4 to 6 pm, where there will be introductions to staff, information on services, and welcome speeches by both local community leaders and members of the disability community. Staff will screen a short documentary on Equip for Equality's twenty years of service to the state's disability community. Refreshments will also be provided.
As with its sister offices in Chicago, Springfield, and Rock Island, EFE's Carbondale office will provide a range of legal advocacy programs for individuals with disabilities and their families, including free individual advocacy consultations, legal representation, self-advocacy and disability rights seminars, abuse and neglect investigations and information outreach to service providers, schools and peer organizations. Serving several downstate metropolitan areas and their rural surrounds, EFE in Carbondale is also extending opportunities for internships and collaborations to law students and teaching attorneys at the Southern Illinois University School of Law, the largest law school in the region. Jeff Plesko, the Carbondale office's new Senior Attorney, has served as an Adjunct Professor at the SIU law school.
"It is an honor to work for Equip for Equality and to be able to provide its services to our community," says Mr. Plesko, previously Director of the Legal Advocacy Service program for the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission as well as an adjunct professor at SIU School of Law. "Anyone who works in disability issues in the state knows that Equip for Equality is at the forefront of disability rights advocacy. Staff provide rigorous, broadly experienced services to a population that has historically faced a variety of obstacles to equality in our society."
"Jeff is an outstanding attorney and committed advocate for people with disabilities," says Barry Taylor, EFE's Legal Advocacy Director. "His work at the Commission established a bridge to EFE long before we had plans for a Carbondale office, and we are fortunate to bring on board a person with his passion and experience who also knows the region and community dynamics."
Becky Boughton, a recent graduate of the SIU School of Law who will be the office's second attorney, previously worked as an extern with Mr. Plesko at the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission where she assisted people with mental illness and developmental disabilities at Choate Developmental Center. Ms. Boughton comes to Equip for Equality with a solid background in serving people with disabilities, the elderly, and juvenile offenders and is currently studying for a master's degree in social work.
A 2005 study entitled "The Legal Aid Safety Net" documented the huge unmet legal needs of people with disabilities in downstate Illinois. The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, which funded The Legal Aid Safety Net study, is a major supporter of the new Carbondale office. "We are very excited about providing locally based legal advocacy services in Southern Illinois and appreciate the Lawyers Trust Fund's support of our work," says Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "Our goal is to assist people with disabilities in realizing opportunities for inclusion, independence and equality, and also to ensure that they can live without fear of abuse, neglect or unjustified segregation, one of the sad realities of many in the disability community, especially those living in large institutional settings."
Equip for Equality's Carbondale office is located at: 2150 West Main Street, Carbondale, IL 62901, Tel: (800) 758-0559, TTY: (800) 610-2779, FAX: (618) 457-7985.
Equip for Equality, an independent nonprofit organization, was designated in 1985 by Governor Thompson to administer the Congressionally mandated Protection & Advocacy (P&A) system for Illinois. Its mission is to advance the human and civil rights of children and adult with disabilities. With offices in Chicago, Springfield, Carbondale, and Rock Island, and a staff of over 50 attorneys, advocates, and other personnel, Equip for Equality is organized around four primary program areas - Legal Advocacy Services, Public Policy, Education & Outreach, and Abuse Investigations. The programs work collaboratively to provide a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to advocating for both individual rights and systemic solutions for people with disabilities. Annually, over 4,500 individuals in Illinois with disabilities and their family members receive direct legal advocacy services from Equip for Equality. Countless more benefit from the organization's systems litigation, and the promotion of best practices, policies, and sound legislation that foster equality, independence and inclusion of people with disabilities in community life. More information on Equip for Equality can be found at www.equipforequality.org.