Maximizing Movement through Increased Access to Quality Rehabilitation Medicine

Movement is the oldest and closest commodity in our life. It is a foundation for how we engage with the world and how the world engages with us. Whether you are mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, walking to the mailbox, or celebrating at the best New Year’s Eve parties in Washington, DC, you will be moving! Around the world, human movement is daily being altered and restricted for thousands, but this alteration and restriction should not be the last story. Instead, each person should be presented with hope and the opportunity to maximize their potential through movement and advance their story.

The opportunity to maximize one’s movement comes from access to quality rehabilitation medicine around the corner and awareness of the possibilities. There is no one pathway to the increase of quality rehab touchpoints near and far; thus, Move Together has developed the Pro Bono Incubator program offering mentorship, resources, and grant funding to support innovative ideas for increasing touchpoints in the US. One unique, innovative endeavor comes from Illinois, PT Access. PT Access seeks to increase access to pro bono physical therapy (PT) services starting with a pilot program in DuPage County, expanding to access across Illinois, and lastly providing and sharing a sustainable model of access for other US states and beyond.

PT Access started with a passion and desire of Phyllis, a retired physical therapist in the Chicago area, to continue serving with her hands, heart, and mind after retirement through local pro bono services. What Phyllis did not realize is how few the opportunities would be for her to share her passion with the people around the Chicago, IL area. She found primarily one pro bono PT clinic nearby located within CommunityHealth. CommunityHealth is the largest pro bono medical clinic in the US and located in the center of Chicago. They have been operating a PT clinic for 20 years, one half-day a week and have a consistent 9 to 10-month waiting list for services.

Once she realized the minimal access to pro bono PT in the Chicago area, Phyills began to explore what might be possible to increase touchpoints to rehab medicine in the Chicago area and beyond. In her research and experience, she recognized the call of the APTA for all physical therapists to “provide pro bono physical therapist services or support organizations that meet the health needs of people who are economically disadvantaged, uninsured, and underinsured” (Principle 8a). She saw the potential availability of space and time within already existing clinics and that it is not a resolution of one but the whole state to increase access to pro bono services.

As a collective community strategy evolved for her, Phyllis reached out to the Illinois Physical Therapy Association (IPTA) and colleagues to advance and collaborate on the idea. In October 2018, the Illinois Physical Therapy Foundation recognized and affirmed the work of Phyllis and her colleagues by creating a committee to support the research, assessment, and implementation of the vision. Phyllis’ desire to serve had now evolved to a mission “to facilitate the provision of pro bono PT services for the uninsured in existing PT clinics throughout Illinois” and has become PT Access.

To continue moving the idea forward, they reached out into the community to learn more about how other pro bono programs are structured and function. Most salient in the process was the encouragement, compassion, collaboration, and community that surrounds the pro bono world. The open arms, welcome, smiles, and guidance from legal and medical pro bono programs energized, empowered, and inspired the committee to continue forward. Forward movement was not always easy as challenges and new processes arose as they worked towards solidifying and implementing the program. The process may have been slowed, but the why and the what continues moving forward with a passion for maximizing the lives of people throughout DuPage County and the state. And in the process, they are developing a shareable resource capturing the processes, actions, things to consider, and steps for implementation of a pro bono system within existing clinics.

PT Access is finalizing the legal, procedural, and financial process and excited to lean more fully into the DuPage County community in the coming months increasing touchpoints to quality sustainable rehabilitation medicine around the corner.

Move Together is honored to be part of PT Access’ journey via the Pro Bono Incubator grant funding program. PBI offers mentorship, resources, and grant funds to programs developing and evolving the number of quality rehab touchpoints throughout the US.

Do you have that desire, that what if on your heart and mind to increase access to quality rehab medicine? YES. Then let’s explore journeying together.

Are you in Illinois and interested in learning more about PT Access? Email the Illinois PT Access committee at


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