Disability Rights Leader Marca Bristo Steps Down as CEO of Access Living

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Marca Bristo, one of the country’s leading advocates for people with disabilities, stepped down earlier this week from her leadership role as CEO of Access Living, Chicago’s leading disability rights organization, which she founded almost 40 years ago. Bristo resigned due to her cancer prognosis and to have this time with her family. She will retain the title and responsibilities of president.

Executive Vice President Daisy Feidt has been named Acting CEO, and a search will soon begin to pick a new permanent CEO who will sustain Access Living’s national leadership.

“Access Living has a strong plan for interim leadership and combined with its talented staff, we can ensure it will remain a powerhouse in the disability community,” said John Schmidt, the organization’s incoming Board Chair who has been tapped to lead the search committee, and who is a partner at the Chicago law firm Mayer Brown LLP.

Bristo founded and built Access Living from the ground up, and the organization is a fixture in the disability community nationally. She’s a staunch disability rights advocate on the national stage who helped author the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.

Bristo co-founded and served as the chair for the National Council on Independent Living for many years. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton and approved by Congress as chair of the National Council on Disability from 1994-2002— marking the first time the organization named a chair with a disability.

Then, as the vice president of North America for Rehabilitation International, she participated in the negotiation for the United Nations’ (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UN adopted in 2006. As president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, she led the fight for the United States’ ratification of that treaty.

Bristo has been honored with many distinctions including the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States; the Henry B. Betts Laureate, considered the Nobel Prize in the disability field; and the 1993 United Way of Chicago Executive of the Year Award.

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