Disability Rights Activist Marca Bristo Dies

Marca Bristo, one of Chicago’s most influential advocates for people with disabilities, has died, according to a statement from Access Living.

Bristo, who founded Access Living to help with advocacy efforts for people with disabilities, passed away Sunday after a battle with cancer. She was 66 years old.

The group, which is “committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables people with disabilities to live fully engaged and self-directed lives,” made the announcement on Sunday in an email to supporters.

According to the email, Bristo made an unplanned visit to Access Living on Wednesday to say goodbye, and gave an “impromptu speech” about what the group and its work meant to her in her life.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D – IL) issued a statement after Bristo’s passing, calling her a “precious friend” who fought valiantly for the rights of Americans with disabilities.

“Our country has lost an unparalleled fighter for the rights of people with disabilities,” Schakowsky said. “Our love goes out to our dear friend, Marca’s husband Bob Kettlewell, their children and new granddaughter.”

Bristo founded Access Living in 1980. He served as the chair on the National Council on Disability, a role she was appointed to by former President Bill Clinton in 1994.

According to her website biography, Bristo also served on the Obama Foundation Inclusion Council and served on the board of Rush University Medical Center.

Access Living said that Bristo’s funeral will be private, but that a public memorial is currently being planned.  

Contact Us