Director of Communications
CHICAGO — Access Living, a leading disability service and advocacy nonprofit, run and led by disabled people, announced today it received an $8 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
The donation is the single largest contribution Access Living has received from an individual donor in its 42-year history of providing critical services and breaking down the systemic barriers people with disabilities confront daily in the city, state and nationwide.
“This extraordinary gift will help us tackle the most pressing issues currently facing the disability community in Chicago and beyond,” said Access Living President and CEO, Karen Tamley, a wheelchair user and lifelong advocate. “It’s a truly life-changing investment for our community and will make an enormous impact in supporting the goals we’ve set for the future.”
Access Living, a Chicago-based Center for Independent Living, will use the unrestricted funds to advance the organization’s strategic priorities including economic opportunity, racial and health equity, greater community-based supports and digital inclusion.
In Illinois, disabled people live in poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities and that rate is compounded for disabled people of color. The dire lack of accessible, affordable housing, along with wide gaps in community services and supports, too often lead to unnecessary segregation, unemployment, isolation, sickness and poverty in the disability community.
Said Tamley: “We are thrilled and grateful for what Ms. Scott’s contribution will allow us to do to escalate our work in addressing long-standing disparities in the disability community, and to ultimately create the more inclusive society we all need and deserve.”
Said John Schmidt, the chairman of the board of directors: “I’m delighted that MacKenzie Scott recognizes Access Living’s strength and value to the community under the exceptional leadership of our CEO Karen Tamley. This extraordinary gift will enable us to move Chicago faster toward the goal of full disability equity and inclusion.”