Access Living's Legacy of Impact


Then and Now: Access Living’s Legacy of Impact

2019 was a year of great progress and profound sadness at Access Living. We continued our unwavering efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities through our consumer services, our growing policy agenda and our legal work to protect and promote disability rights. But, sadly, we also lost our founding President and CEO, Marca Bristo, to cancer. She was a guiding force for our organization and the entire disability community, and we miss her daily.

There is no better way to honor Marca than to continue and build upon her life’s work. We assured her we would. In 2020, Access Living will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Throughout the year we are planning many events and activities celebrating Marca’s life and our anniversary. Thus, we felt that this year’s annual report should both document our latest work and showcase the work that came before it, which makes up the fabric of who we are.

Access Living was created 10 years before the Americans with Disabilities
Act was passed, at a time when many people with disabilities could not even
dream of civil rights legislation. Access Living was one of the first Centers
of Independent Living in the country, providing critical services for disabled Chicagoans to live independently, and working to break down systemic barriers to create a stronger more inclusive world. That’s a vision we need to keep top of mind more than ever in these polarizing times. Our experience tells us it’s not out of reach. We’ve laid a strong foundation for the work we do today and the work we’ll do tomorrow. Our legacy of impact is just beginning.

We make sure that we have seats at tables where decisions regarding issues affecting the lives of persons with disabilities are made.

To that end, Access Living participated on the transition teams for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker in 2019, while still holding the city and state accountable for its responsibilities to people with disabilities. We need more accessible affordable housing, equal access to rideshare services, and appropriate funding for personal assistants. We continued to hold Chicago Public Schools accountable for meeting the needs of students with disabilities, while also expanding our youth empowerment, teaching high schoolers with disabilities life skills and disability history. We continued to move people out of nursing homes into their own homes, and expanded our work in the areas of racial justice and immigration.

All of that is a taste of the work we did this year. More details are in the pages that follow. The success that we had this year was not possible without the generous support of our community, the tireless, devoted efforts of our immensely talented staff, the unwavering support of our Board of Directors, and the courage and voice of the consumers we proudly serve. While we need to reflect upon our past accomplishments, we have our sights aimed at the future both near and far. There is so much work we need to accomplish. We look forward to your continued
generosity, efforts and support as we continue to challenge stereotypes, offer services and defend disability rights for the next 40 years and beyond.