CONTACT: Lena Parsons, for Access Living

New legislation protects people with disabilities in hospitals

Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago applauds the passage of HB 1684, which amends the Illinois Hospital Licensing Act. House Bill 1684, now known as Public Act 97-0122, was signed into law on July 14 by Illinois Governor Quinn. The new amendments, which go into effect January 1, 2012, represent the first effort in Illinois to assure that people with disabilities who need to be physically moved by hospital staff are protected with respect to their physical safety, dignity, and choice. The amendments protect hospital nurses and health care workers while also ensuring that patient and consumer autonomy is recognized and respected, and that consumers are informed of all the ways in which they may be lifted during their stay in any hospital facility.

Hospitals must now adopt and implement policies that include training of health care workers on safe lifting techniques and equipment, having in place a safe lifting team, advising patients of their options in being lifted, moved, and transferred, and documenting a lifting and moving plan for each patient that takes into consideration patient choices.

“For the first time, this bill gives the power of self-determination and self-direction directly to the person with a disability,” said Judy Panko Reis, Access Living’s Health Care Policy Analyst. In her experience within the disability and the health care fields, Reis worked with many people who had been subjected to unsafe situations, including people who have been dropped when transferring from a wheelchair to equipment. She has also worked with women with disabilities who continue to be denied quality gynecological care because of unsafe lifting alternatives “This bill is a great step forward in terms of choice and safety for people with disabilities,” said Reis.

The bill moved forward with the help of a diverse group of organizations. Access Living, the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois Nurses Association, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Illinois, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees collaborated together to develop and build support for the legislation. The amendments were introduced and sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes in the Illinois Senate and Representative Esther Golar in the Illinois House.

HB 1684 will help prevent injuries to health care workers and nurses, while simultaneously giving consumers greater self-determination, choice, independence, dignity, comfort, and safety. “The new bill is a win-win. It offers choice and safety to consumers while continuing to protect providers,” said Marilyn Martin, an Access Living Health Access Policy Analyst who helped to draft the new language in HB 1684.

Established in 1980, Access Living is a non-profit, Chicago-based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer-based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is a leading force in the community. Committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers, Access Living is a nationally recognized change agent at the forefront of the disability rights movement.


Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully–engaged and self–directed lives. Nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, Access Living challenges stereotypes, protects civil rights and champions social reform.