Civil Rights & Legal Work

Access Living is unique among Centers for Independent Living in its powerful capacity to implement legal strategies that promote the rights of people with disabilities. Access Living Civil Rights Staff enforce federal, state and local civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and related laws, which prohibit discrimination. Our attorneys and legal assistants regularly counsel people with disabilities about their civil rights and provide representation in cases implicating important disability rights issues.

The Civil Rights & Legal team focuses on:

Community integration and Olmstead legal enforcement: Through major class action cases, we advocate for the right of people with disabilities to live in the community setting of their choice. The Supreme Court Olmstead decision of 1999 mandates that no person with a disability can be institutionalized against that person's will.

Fair housing legal enforcement: The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 protects the rights of people with disabilities to live in accessible housing without discrimination. When we receive complaints about housing discrimination or inaccessible housing, our fair housing legal team takes action.

Fair housing testing: Access Living evaluates landlords and buildings to measure discrimination through a fair housing testing grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Access Living's legal victories have helped to pave the way for full community inclusion of people with all types of disabilities. Both housing and community integration for people with disabilities are two of the greatest hidden civil rights struggles in our country today.

The civil rights enforcement mission comprises four principle components:

Counseling about civil rights and empowering people with disabilities to advocate for themselves in fighting civil rights violations. We advise consumers with discrimination claims about their legal rights, and counsel them on how to resolve disputes on their own. The assistance we provide depends on the needs of the consumer and the complexity of the issues. In some cases, consumers receive brief information about their civil rights. In other cases, staff members assist consumers with drafting letters and/or filing complaints on their own;

Advocating for systemic change using non–litigation strategies in the areas of housing, public transit, and community integration;

Representing people with disabilities in cases implicating important civil rights protections and/or systemic civil rights issues;

Educating the general public, including government officials, business professionals, school systems, service providers and others, about the civil rights of people with disabilities. Civil Rights and Legal staff members regularly provide formal presentations on the civil rights of people with disabilities. Audiences include government officials, educators, architects, developers, realtors, students, consumers and business leaders.
Contact:
Lisa Braganca
Title:
Director of Legal Services
Email:
lbraganca@accessliving.org
Work:
312-640-2175
TTY:
312-640-2102
Contact:
Ken Walden
Title:
Managing Attorney - Fair Housing
Work:
312-640-2136
TTY:
312-640-2169
Email:
kwalden@accessliving.org
Contact:
Patti Werner
Title:
Managing Attorney – Community Integration
Work:
312-640-2148
TTY:
312-640-2102
Email:
pwerner@accessliving.org
Contact:
Kim Borowicz
Title:
Staff Attorney
Work:
312-640-2155
TTY:
312-640-2169
Email:
KBorowicz@accessliving.org

Civil Rights & Legal Work

Brochure

Access Living is unique among Centers for Independent Living in its powerful capacity to implement legal strategies that promote the rights of people with disabilities...Learn More