Success Story -- Fighting the good fight

Michael Sanjurjo wasn’t lookingfor a fight. Soon after acquiring his disability, Sanjurjo approached his condominium association about installing a ramp. He wanted equal access to the building – access that was his right under the law. He was prepared to find funding for the ramp. He was ready to find a contractor to build the ramp. All he asked of the condominium association was approval to go forward with the project.

Through almost every step of the process, the condominium association put roadblocks in Sanjurjo’s way. For nearly two years, while the association delayed, Sanjurjo, a wheelchair user from Park Ridge, was forced to negotiate several steps in order to enter the condominium building where he lived. But Sanjurjo was undeterred. “If you don’t want to put in a ramp, so be it,” he said, referring to the condominium association. “But I am going to get a ramp.”

Acting upon a referral from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Life Center, Sanjurjo contacted Access Living’s Civil Rights Team, who soon jumped on board with Sanjurjo. Together, Michael Sanjurjo, his wife Denise, and members of Access Living’s Civil Rights Team persisted, insisting that the condominium association permit the Sanjurjos to have the ramp installed. Access Living sent both letters and emails, and negotiated over the phone with lawyers representing the condominium association. Finally, in December 2006, persistence paid off. The condominium association signed an agreement and a ramp that allows wheelchair access into the building was installed.

Today, it is not just the Sanjurjos who benefit. Other building residents with disabilities often use the ramp as well. “It seems you have to fight for everything,” Sanjurjo said recently, thinking about his experience. “Whether it be healthcare, transportation, or the ramp, you always have to fight.”