The Marca Bristo Legacy Campaign


Barbara Khalouf

Director of Development

(312) 640-2198

The Marca Bristo Legacy Campaign

Marca Bristo triumphantly raising her fist in the air as she speaks into a microphone.

“My personal request is that you continue to support Access Living and fight, together, for the basic rights and independence of people with disabilities. Thank you for your continued investment in our future.”

Marca Bristo

A Special Request:

On September 8, 2020, the world lost one of history’s foremost champions of disability rights. Marca Bristo built Access Living from the ground up. She helped author the Americans with Disabilities Act, co-founded and served as President of the National Council on Independent Living, and was appointed chair of the National Council on Disability by President Bill Clinton. She participated in the negotiation for the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UN adopted in 2006.

Marca intentionally developed an organization full of leaders. She was a warrior for disability rights and she worked to ensure that part of her legacy was to leave like-minded warriors to lead on in her stead. In considering how to best assure Access Living’s long-term sustainability, Marca wanted to significantly increase the permanent endowment through a Legacy Campaign – with the primary objective being the establishment of a $6.5 million endowed chair for the position of Access Living’s President and CEO. In Marca’s memory, this is now called The Marca Bristo Legacy Chair.

“In partnership with our Access Living friends and family, we can help assure that Access Living is poised to continue Marca’s legacy, and honor her desire for Access Living to continue without her. This legacy endowment will be extremely important to this organization’s long-term future.In partnership with our Access Living Friends & Family, we can help assure that Access Living is poised to continue Marca’s legacy, and honor her desire that Access Living continues to grow stronger without her. The legacy endowment we are seeking will be extremely important to this organization’s longtime future.”

President Barack Obama

Marca’s legacy, the one she was so determined to protect, also belongs to our many benefactors. All gifts for this endowed chair (payable over a one to five year period) and the gifts of others will ensure that Access Living has, in perpetuity, proper funding for a highly credentialed President and CEO, one who will sustain our work at the highest level, as Marca did.

All gifts for this endowed chair (payable over a one to five year period), which, combined with the gifts of others, will allow Access Living to be assured of proper funding, in perpetuity, for a President & CEO with the necessary credentials to sustain our work at the highest level, just as Marca did.

“Marca has been a longtime advocate for people with disabilities and her accomplishments have improved the lives of millions around the world.”

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation

Marca Bristo Legacy Campaign Donors

  • Anonymous (4)
  • Ken Bennett
  • Kevin W. Bradley
  • Bresky Foundation
  • Jennifer and Alex Brown
  • Gail & Jack Catlin*
  • Chicago Community Trust
  • Terry D. Conour*, in memoriam
  • Ellen Costello and Michael Judge
  • Crown Family Philanthropies
  • D & R Fund
  • Kristin Weaver Danzinger & Family
  • The Debicki Family Foundation
  • Hon. Robert J. Dole*
  • Toni & Jim Feldstein
  • Ellen Frankle
  • Larry and Michelle Goodman
  • William Haffner
  • The Harris Family Foundation
  • Hon. Neil F. Hartigan
  • Helen Brach Foundation
  • Judy Heumann* & Jorge Pineda
  • The Klaus Family
  • Zachary Kordik
  • KRW Foundation
  • Virginia A. Laszewski
  • Tuyet M. Le
  • Benjamin E. Lumicao
  • Ron, Paula and Erin Mallicoat
  • William and Cathy Osborn
  • Mark & Cynthia Owen
  • Polk Bros. Foundation
  • Hedy M. Ratner
  • Felicia N. Rauls
  • Dr. & Mrs. Elliot and Renee Roth
  • Shari Runner
  • John Schmidt and Janet Gilboy
  • Kurt and Rachel Schulenburg
  • Beth Server
  • Kelly and Michael Small
  • Ella and Richard* Strubel
  • Karen Tamley & Kevin Irvine
  • Maria Town
  • Chad and Mary Turner
  • Molly Walsh & Chris McKillip


Access Living’s Mission, Description, and History

Access Living’s mission is to ignite the power and pride of people with disabilities, provide critical services, and break down systemic barriers to create a more inclusive, and therefore much stronger, society. To make this vision a reality we offer: (1) services for people with disabilities that help them lead independent, self-directed lives, (2) individualized and systemic advocacy, and (3) enforcement of civil rights on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent governed and staffed by a majority of people with disabilities. We are nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, and we challenge stereotypes, protect civil rights, and champion social reform. As the only federally funded Center for Independent Living in Chicago, we have increased the independence of over 50,000 individuals with disabilities since our founding and annually serve approximately 1,800 individuals. Furthermore, we work to make health care, education, transportation and housing more accessible, thereby improving the lives and increasing the independence of countless people with disabilities.

Some of Access Living’s significant achievements:

  • Playing a key role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act
  • Participating in a $15 million settlement aimed at improving the accessibility of Chicago public transit
  • Partnering with the City of Chicago to expand the accessibility guidelines in the Chicago Building Code
  • Establishing our headquarters in a universally designed and green building
  • Advocating for the successful passage of an Illinois law on safe lifting techniques for people with disabilities in hospital settings
  • Successfully moving disability to the center of political agendas by coordinating candidate forums for the Illinois Governor, Illinois Attorney General and Chicago Mayoral races during the 2018-19 election cycle
  • Safe-guarding the education of students with disabilities by asking the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to put a special monitor in place to oversee the Chicago Public Schools’ compliance with special education laws