Marca Bristo, a dynamic and inspiring Chicago-based disability rights activist, died this past Sunday and leaves behind an incredible legacy where she transformed the landscape for people with disabilities in this country. The Founder of Access Living, she was tenacious, gregarious, strategic and had a vision of a world where people with disabilities would live in a world of inclusion, independence and empowerment. As she took a leading role in the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, she changed the conversation about accessibility for people with disabilities from one where public and private institutions had no obligation to provide access to one where access for all is a Civil Right.
Marca’s vision for acceptance, inclusion and empowerment for people with disabilities has touched us here at Raise Your Hand. Access Living staff (Rod Estvan and Chris Yun) have been invaluable resources and sounding boards as we navigate providing support for parents who contact us with special education and ADA accessibility concerns. With Marca’s encouragement and blessing, in December 2017, after 18 months of CPS refusing to pull back on their illegal special education policy and procedures, Rod Estvan assembled a group of special education and disability rights activists, including advocacy organizations, special education attorneys and CPS parents to collaborate on writing a letter to the Illinois State Board of Education asking them to intervene and investigate CPS. We recall an energetic, determined and smiling Marca coming into the conference room toward the end of the first Advocate Group meeting to encourage us in our fight for CPS students with disabilities.
We are forever grateful and changed by Marca Bristo’s contribution to our world and will work toward a future where her vision of equity, empowerment, inclusion, independence, acceptance an accessibility for people with disabilities continues to grow.