For years, HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys have advanced the rights of people with disabilities through class action and impactful individual litigation, particularly in healthcare. HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys have brought claims against the largest national eye care and dental care chains resulting in millions of dollars of investments to make their services and physical facilities across the country accessible to people with disabilities. They have a proven track record of advocating for accessibility of hospitals and other medical facilities, including the elimination of physical barriers, implementation of accessible medical equipment, and enhanced accessibility-related policies, procedures and training, through cooperative negotiations and, when necessary, litigation. HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys are also at the forefront of ensuring qualified sign language interpreters are available in health care settings, which is critical to ensure Deaf and hard of hearing patients have an equal opportunity to participate in their own care and receive quality, essential and timely medical care.
In 2022, HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys resolved a class action litigation against the City of Pekin, Illinois, over the lack of accessible sidewalks and public rights-of-way, conditions that for decades limited the ability of its residents using wheelchairs and scooters to navigate the City’s sidewalks safely. As part of the resolution, the City will invest millions of dollars over the coming years to identify and remediate the City’s sidewalks and crosswalks that are not accessible, and it has provided financial compensation to the class of people with mobility disabilities who have been impacted.
In education, HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys worked with hundreds of students with disabilities and their families on school and learning issues from early-childhood programs through graduate school. From negotiating accommodations and supports through the IDEA, addressing discipline and discrimination, to negotiating for competent and consistent school nursing assistance, HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys support students with disabilities to secure the education supports they need and fight discrimination.
HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys are national leaders in disability rights and advocacy. Among many roles of advocacy and government leadership, they have served as Chairman of the National Council on Disability under President Joseph Biden, Jr.; commissioner appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker for the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission; governor appointed member of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois; and former Chairman of the board of directors of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, the largest center for independent living in Illinois.
HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys also provide advocacy training, and consulting services to advance the rights of people with disabilities without litigation. Through virtual and in-person trainings and workshops, they educate people with disabilities about their legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related state laws. The accessible healthcare workshops and webinars also teach people across all categories of disabilities how to enhance their patient advocacy by Acting B-A-D™, a 3-phase structured approach to patient advocacy identifying strategies to act Before-After-During-healthcare appointments.
HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys provide workshops for healthcare administrators, healthcare professionals, medical students and residents on their obligations under the federal nondiscrimination mandates, and on the disability rights and independent living movement.
HSPRD’s disability rights attorneys have been invited to present on issues of disability rights and compliance with legal obligations to a variety of audiences, including foreign embassy offices, the National ADA Network, the National Council on Independent Living, Shirley Ryan Abilitylab, Stanford medical school, University of Illinois Chicago medical school, University of Illinois Chicago law school, and the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, among others.
PUBLIC ACCESS CLASS ACTIONS
Berardi, et al. v. City of Pekin, Illinois. Class action lawsuit on behalf of people with mobility disabilities residing in the city of Pekin who were not able to navigate the city’s system of sidewalks because of disrepair, unsafe conditions, the presence of physical barriers, and the lack of curb cuts. The 2022 settlement obligates the City to undertake comprehensive remediation of its system of sidewalks, expending millions of dollars over time and to provide compensatory damages to class members.
The Equal Rights Center Fisher et al. v. Kohl’s Corporation and Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. Litigation to address the inaccessibility of Kohl’s stores to people with mobility disabilities using wheelchairs and scooters in multiple jurisdictions. Kohl’s utilized layout plans that created narrow aisle widths in many departments within its stores that precluded persons using wheelchairs and scooters from navigating through those aisles. Settlement resulted in Kohl’s modifying those layout plans to maintain accessible aisles.
HOSPITALS AND HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS
Craig et al. v. OSF Healthcare System. Multi-plaintiff lawsuit addressed the healthcare system’s failure to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for Deaf patients and their Deaf companions. The settlement resulted in comprehensive communication access policies and procedures, training for the healthcare system’s staff on their federal obligations to achieve effective communication with patients who are deaf and hard of hearing, and requiring the availability of on-site American Sign Language interpreters.
Robles et al. v. CVS Caremark Corporation, MinuteClinic, LLC, and MinuteClinic Diagnostics of Illinois, LLC. Class action litigation to address the inaccessibility of CVS Minute Clinics nationwide to persons with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs, and for persons who are Deaf and hard of hearing. Comprehensive settlement resulted in CVS acquiring wheelchair accessible weight measurement scales, enlarging examination rooms where required, and having on-site American Sign Language interpreters available when requested.
Audia v. Briar Place, Ltd. Discrimination by nursing home against a Deaf resident by its failure to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to achieve effective communication with her throughout her time at the facility. Despite Ms. Audia repeatedly requesting the availability of an on-site American Sign Language interpreter, she was forced to attempt to lip read and exchange written notes with nursing home staff. Case settled resulting in the award of monetary damages.
Jessie et al. v. DentalCare Partners, Inc and Dental One, Inc. Class action litigation to address the inaccessibility of Dental Works dental clinics throughout the country to people with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs that cannot independently transfer from their wheelchairs onto treatment chairs. Settlement resulted in Dental Works acquiring lift equipment to safely transfer those patients when requested.
EYE CARE CLINICS
Luna v. America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Inc. Class action litigation to require America’s Best to make its examination rooms and examination services throughout all of its stores nationwide accessible for people with mobility disabilities who cannot transfer independently onto examination chairs. The settlement required America’s Best to enlarge examination rooms, where needed, and to install devices underneath existing examination chairs to allow them to easily move for a person in a wheelchair to position their wheelchair in place of the examination chair and receive an eye examination while remaining in their wheelchairs. The settlement also required that all examination equipment be mounted on height adjustable and portable equipment stands and tables that are height adjustable to facilitate a person using a wheelchair to access and use that equipment.
M.U. ex rel. Kelly U. and Nick U. v. Team Illinois Hockey Club, Inc. and The Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, Inc. HSPRD reached a favorable ruling for teen hockey player and mental-health advocate, Morgan Urso, when the Illinois Court of Appeals unanimously ruled for the first time that youth sports teams and organizations in Illinois must follow the Illinois Human Rights Act. Sports teams cannot discriminate against players based on their mental health condition, disability, or other status protected by state law.