CHICAGO, June 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last night, Equip for Equality celebrated 30 years of advancing the rights of people with disabilities at an event hosted by long-time pro bono supporter Kirkland & Ellis. At the event, Kirkland and Dentons were honored for their outstanding support of Equip for Equality with the Lead Community Champion and Pro Bono Partner Awards.
In 1985, five years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, Equip for Equality was founded to address the glaring discrimination and unequal treatment of Illinoisans with developmental, mental and physical disabilities. Among its many accomplishments, Equip for Equality has made Chicago public transportation more accessible, helped thousands of people with disabilities move from institutions into the community, increased inclusive education for students with disabilities, enhanced safety and quality of care by improving state investigative and oversight systems, and influenced significant positive changes in Illinois law.
"We lived in a completely different era three decades ago—it was a time when there were very few legal rights protections accorded to people with disabilities. Since our founding, we have been working to develop systemic change in our society, to create a world free from policies and practices that deny children and adults with disabilities the right to self-determination and community integration. And because of our partnership with other organizations, law firms, businesses, and governments, substantial progress has made," said Zena Naiditch, founder, president and CEO of Equip for Equality.
Currently, 24 law firms and corporate law departments provide pro bono support to Equip for Equality. Kirkland & Ellis was the first law firm to provide pro bono services when it helped Equip for Equality incorporate as a not-for-profit organization. Since then, Kirkland has been a major supporter of Equip for Equality, including being the first law firm to staff the Special Education Clinic Helpline, serving as co-counsel in a major community integration class action for people with mental illness, and providing critical legal advice on internal legal matters for the past thirty years. Kirkland attorneys have also served in important leadership roles on Equip for Equality's Board of Directors.
"Our partnership with Equip for Equality dates back to its inception 30 years ago," said Thomas Kuhns, Kirkland's general counsel and the first firm attorney to volunteer his pro bono services to Equip for Equality. "To this day, we are committed to helping this organization fulfill its mission by providing meaningful pro bono legal services that make a significant difference in the lives of those in Illinois with disabilities."
Dentons is another law firm that has been a significant supporter of Equip for Equality's mission. Dentons' pro bono contributions include co-counseling on three groundbreaking ADA class actions, two on behalf of people in institutions seeking to move into the community, and extensive advocacy on behalf of prisoners with mental illness who have been denied basic mental health treatment. These class actions have helped over 60,000 people with disabilities secure and expand their rights under federal law. Dentons' attorneys also have been key leaders on Equip for Equality's Board of Directors, including current Board Chairperson Duane Quaini.
"Given Dentons' long partnership with Equip for Equality, we're honored to celebrate their 30 years of impressive advocacy for human and civil rights on behalf of people with disabilities," said Ben Weinberg, Dentons' pro bono partner. "We are extremely gratified by our shared history of providing legal advice and services to increase access for all citizens."
About Equip for Equality
Established in 1985, Equip for Equality serves as the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy System for the state of Illinois and is a nationally recognized, private, not-for-profit organization that promotes self-advocacy and is a legal advocate for people with disabilities, handling individual cases and systems-change litigation to achieve broad-based societal reforms; independently monitors public and private institutions and programs serving people with disabilities; serves as a watchdog over the government, business and not-for-profit sectors; and advocates through public policy and legislative activities to give people greater choices in their lives and ensure their independence and inclusion in all aspects of community living. www.equipforequality.org
About Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland is committed to providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel, with the goals of improving lives, bettering communities and deepening our attorneys' professional experience. Kirkland attorneys at all levels pursue pro bono matters dealing with a variety of issues such as immigration, disability rights, civil rights, prisoner rights, death penalty cases and criminal appeals, guardianship, veterans' benefits, and the representation of nonprofit organizations, among other areas. In 2015, Kirkland attorneys devoted 103,846 hours of free legal service to pro bono clients. Learn more about Kirkland's commitment to pro bono at www.kirkland.com/probono.
Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries. www.dentons.com.
Contact: Barry C. Taylor, Equip for Equality (312) 895-7317
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SOURCE Equip for Equality