Marca Bristo, President & CEO: BIO

For more than 30 years, Marca Bristo and Access Living, Chicago’s center for independent living, have helped craft local, national and international reforms to protect the rights of people with disabilities and equip them with tools to lead independent, satisfying lifestyles. A pioneer of Chicago’s disability rights movement and a former patient of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Bristo helped launch Access Living, one of the country’s first ten centers for independent living. Since 1980, Access Living has provided peer services and advocacy to over 40,000 people with disabilities, and it has won systemic improvements in housing public schools, public transportation, public access and long-term care.

Beyond Access Living, Bristo is an international advocate for the rights of disabled individuals. During the 1980s, as a member of the Congressionally appointed United States Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities, she helped draft and win passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Bristo to head the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that provides policy guidance to the U.S. President and Congress. Bristo was the first person with a disability to hold this position. Today, as President of the United States International Council on Disabilities, a federation of US disability organizations committed to fostering Disability Awareness inclusion and rights overseas, she is leading a campaign to promote the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in the United States.

For her dedication and perseverance, Bristo received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States and the Americans with Disabilities Act Award for her role in the creation and passage of the law. She was named a Henry B. Betts Laureate for significantly improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, and earned the 1993 United Way of Chicago Executive of the Year Award. Ms. Bristo also was named by Crain's Chicago Business as one of Chicago's 100 Most Influential Women. The Chicago Sun-Times included Bristo on its list of 100 Most Powerful Women, and was on the list of Today’s Chicago Woman 100 Women Making a Difference. Other awards include: IMPACT Award Recipient, Chicago Foundation for Women, 2010; BPI 40 Who Have Made a Difference, 2009; Chicagoan of the Year, Chicago Magazine, 2007.

Bristo is a Trustee of Rush University, a Life Member of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a member of The Chicago Network, and a Leadership Greater Chicago Alumni. She earned a B.A. from Beloit College and a B.S. in Nursing from Rush University.