Last week the Illinois Senate passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act (HB 2248), legislation which will restore civil rights protections for people with disabilities in the State of Illinois.
Last year, in the case of Cummings v. Keller Premier Rehab P.L.L.C., 142 S. Ct. 1562 (2022), the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the most common type of damages for civil rights violations which, although minimal in amount, allow enforcement of the law. Titled the Civil Rights Remedies Restoration Act, this new Illinois state law clarifies that these civil rights statutes are enforceable in Illinois by spelling out that anyone injured by a violation of Section 504 is entitled to compensation for their emotional damages.
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act is a federal law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability by organizations receiving federal financial assistance.
“Now disabled people can enforce the key legal statutes that have protected their rights to be included into society,” says Charles Petrof, Senior Attorney at Access Living. “What this law does is restore previous legal precedent that is the foundation of the rights for people with disabilities.”
These emotional damages give people denied of their civil rights standing under the Civil Rights Remedies Restoration Act. The bill also makes enforceable other civil rights laws addressed by the Cummings decision including,
Previously under the Cummings rule, a medical provider could refuse to provide sign language interpretation to a Deaf patient even when evaluating life-threatening conditions or fail to make their office accessible to patients who use wheelchairs or scooters without consequence, for example. Under this new law an individual in this situation would be able to enforce their rights.
Access Living applauds passage of the Civil Rights Remedies Restoration Act and the cooperation with state legislators. “This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Section 504, regulations that passed due to the collective action of the disability rights movement” says Karen Tamley, CEO of Access Living. “We are proud to honor and continue that legacy and restore the original intent of the act to protect the rights of all peoples with disabilities.”
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Established in 1980, Access Living is a center of service, advocacy, and social change for people with disabilities led and run by people with disabilities. We envision a world free from barriers and discrimination – where disability is a respected and natural part of the human experience and people with disabilities are included and valued.