Activist led with vision and principle.
CHICAGO, September 10, 2019—CTU President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement on the death of Marca Bristo:
The Chicago Teachers Union was saddened to learn of the passing of Marca Bristo, a fearless advocate of equality for people with disabilities. Since she founded Access Living in 1980, the group has served as a linchpin in the disability rights movement. Access Living today remains a leading light in the fight for equality before the law—and in the battle to end discrimination and barriers to the full participation in society of people living with disabilities.
Marca’s vision and Access Living’s advocacy has been indispensable for our special education students. Just weeks ago, on the reprehensible and illegal denial of special education services to students with disabilities in Chicago’s public schools. That report showed that CPS’ chronic under-staffing of nurses, special education teachers and paraprofessional staff amounts to nothing less than endemic discrimination against our most vulnerable learners. For parents, educators and allies, Access Living’s dogged advocacy has laid the groundwork to address student needs in our bargaining, in CPS’ budget and on the ground in our schools. t
But Marca’s vision and contributions are larger than that monumental endeavor. From the beginning, she understood that people with disabilities and the health and home care workers who support them are bound together in a common struggle for the dignity of all. Her work was embedded in the progressive struggle to put people before profits, and lift up the capacities and contributions of people that profiteers and political agendas have sought to consign to the margins. That wisdom continues to inform the work of Access Living and the advocates it nurtures and supports, and strengthens the movement of all who fight for the common good.
Marca helped develop a core group of deeply principled activists who carry on the work today—a legacy that sustains this vital long-term struggle for equality and justice. We will miss her clarity and tireless advocacy for equal access for all Chicago residents, and we will carry on for her.