Disability Rights Group Demands City of Chicago Make Homeless Shelters Accessible


March 12, 2019 | by Bridget Hayman

Demands come as woman with a disability files suit for being denied shelter


Bridget Hayman

Director of Communications


(312) 640-2129

CHICAGO – Members of Access Living’s Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing (DRACH) will gather at 10 a.m. today, Tuesday, March 12, outside the City of Chicago Community Center located at 10 S. Kedzie to demand that Chicago make its homeless shelters accessible to people with disabilities, including those who are denied access because they use canes or wheelchairs. 

This action is being done in support of a lawsuit filed last night against the City on behalf of a woman who uses a cane was denied access to the homeless shelter system on the basis of her disability. Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, Access Living, and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless are working together on the case.

“Right now, the homeless shelter system is failing people with disabilities,” said Access Living community organizer Cathleen O’Brien. “We’ve tried to work with the City on this for years. They’ve only taken one meeting with us, and it’s time they took the needs to homeless people with disabilities and our demands seriously.”

DRACH members are demanding necessities like physical access to shelters, basic personal care, and access to medication while in a shelter. The members of the group all have disabilities, and many also have experienced living in a shelter. They will share the personal stories today that inform their demands in an effort to bring attention to these issues, many that can be the difference between life and death.

“The City needs to take real steps to support what many people with disabilities actually need to get off and stay off the street – accessible places to stay and affordable housing — instead of pouring more money into high-end housing developments like Lincoln Yards,” O’Brien said.

Following the protest Tuesday, O’Brien and DRACH members will speak during the community comment period of Wednesday’s City Council meeting. People with disabilities share concerns of other Chicago residents who don’t support the city’s continued subsidies for high-income housing like Lincoln Yards when there are upwards of 80,000 Chicagoans homeless on any given day.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than forty-percent of the population of people who are homeless in America are people with disabilities.

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.