When people with disabilities are unable to resolve legal problems or disputes through their own self-advocacy efforts, Equip for Equality may provide legal representation. Equip for Equality's attorneys, specializing in disability rights, represent clients in negotiations, administrative hearings, and in state and federal courts. Major areas of focus include: discrimination, community integration, special education, self-determination and safety from abuse and neglect.
Equip for Equality cases filed on behalf of individuals have included:
- A university withdrew a music student with mental illness from school after a panic attack, claiming he was dangerous. After Equip for Equality brought a federal ADA lawsuit on his behalf, the judge ordered the university to readmit the student and he has since graduated and begun his music career.
- A national medical licensing board denied the request of a medical student with learning disabilities for a reasonable accommodation on her licensing exam (additional time to take the test). After Equip for Equality filed a lawsuit on her behalf, the judge ordered the board to provide the accommodation, and the young woman passed her exam and is now a physician.
- A grandmother asked to be made legal guardian of her grandchildren (because the mother is unfit), but her request was denied because of her blindness, even though an uncle would be available to assist her. Equip for Equality filed suit and the grandmother was able to take care of her grandchildren.
- A young woman with cerebral palsy was a resident of a state-run institution. A few months before she finished special education at age 22, it was determined that she would be moved to a nursing home. No transition plan had been developed when she was 14 years old, as required by law. Equip for Equality intervened and the young woman is now successfully living in her own apartment in the community.
High Impact Litigation:
To assist people in their quest for equality, our organization also pursues class action litigation and other cases that will benefit the broader disability community. Only in this way will we create a more just and equitable society and prevent people in the future from experiencing the same problems over and over. Systemic litigation filed by Equip for Equality for the benefit of people with disabilities include:
- Equip for Equality and others filed suit against the Chicago Transit Authority for failing to make its bus and train system accessible, resulting in a $15 million dollar settlement to bring the system into ADA compliance.
- In a case that was appealed by the school district to the U.S. Supreme Court, Equip for Equality represented a teenager with developmental disabilities who, in order to attend his neighborhood school, required certain health services to be administered while he was at school, which the school refused to provide. The student successfully completed high school once he secured these services.
- Equip for Equality and others filed a class action lawsuit against the Cook County Jail, alleging that inmates with mental illnesses are denied access to substance abuse programs and are barred from participating in various supervised community release programs, in violation of the ADA. It also contends that 14th Amendment due process has been denied because individuals with mental illnesses are released into the community without arrangements to access necessary medication or mental health services.
- Equip for Equality has brought three employment discrimination lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department on behalf of police officers with mobility impairments. In one case, in a consent decree the court enjoined the Police Department from enforcing its discriminatory policy. In another, the case settled for a monetary sum and a job.
- EFE also regularly files amicus, or friend-of-the-court, briefs in important national and state lawsuits brought by others that will have a significant impact on the rights of people in Illinois. Amicus briefs have been filed in cases involving the confidentiality of mental health records, parental rights of people with disabilities, community integration, employment discrimination, and we represented state P&A Systems around the country and ourselves in objecting to a national ADA settlement that was not in the interests of the broader disability community.