“Chicago groups chip in as ADA marks 25 years”

In Chicago, a network of more than 160 civic organizations, government agencies and businesses have come together to commemorate the American With Disabilities Act’s 25th anniversary by committing to new programs and initiatives within their organizations.


Windy City Times July 29, 2015

“Which Funders Will Get Behind Chicago’s New Disabilities Initiative?”

A quarter-century after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, adults with disabilities still find it difficult to find employment, succeed in school, and rise above poverty. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, a new local initiative has emerged in Chicago to take the law’s successes a few steps further.


Inside Philanthropy July 28, 2015

“ADA turns 25: What cases have challenged the law?”

As we commemorate the law’s 25th birthday, we’re taking a look at some of the most integral cases that have allowed the law to evolve, and extend rights to people in the workplace. Barry Taylor, Vice President for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation with the group Equip for Equality, joins us to discuss.



WBEZ July 28, 2015

“On 25th Anniversary, City Official Addresses Chicago’s ADA Advancements”

Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that set standards for everything from accessing buildings and public transportation to mandating equal access in employment.



WTTW: Chicago Tonight July 27, 2015

“Fellowship for new lawyer with disabilities starts”

As the Americans with Disabilities Act marked 25 years Sunday, a fellowship for an upcoming law school graduate with a disability has been established.


Chicago Daily Law Bulletin July 27, 2015

“On 25th Anniversary, City Official Addresses Chicago’s ADA Advancements”

Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that set standards for everything from accessing buildings and public transportation to mandating equal access in employment. How has the world changed for the disabled in the last quarter century? Here to discuss that is Karen Tamley, commissioner of the Chicago Mayor’s Office for Persons with Disabilities.


Chicago Sun-Times July 27, 2015

“Chicagoland Coalition Marks ADA’s 25th Anniversary With New Initiatives”

It’s been 25 years since the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place, and more than 160 Chicago-area advocacy groups, government agencies, cultural institutions and businesses have joined forces to develop new programs aimed at expanding opportunities for local residents with disabilities.


Progress Illinois July 27, 2015

Release: McDermott Will & Emery Joins with Equal Justice Works to Sponsor First “ADA 25 Chicago” Fellowship

CHICAGO (July 27, 2015) – Honoring the 25th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, McDermott Will & Emery announced today that it will be the first sponsor of a new fellowship for Chicago-area attorneys with disabilities.


Please click here to download the release.

“Newsviews: The Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 25”

CHICAGO (WLS) — “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” That was the declaration from President George HW Bush 25 years ago when he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.


ABC 7 Chicago July 26, 2015

“Photo Exhibit Documents Battle for Disability Rights”

CHICAGO (WLS) — The battle to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was long and hard, and it was critical. It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But people with disabilities say it left them out. But that didn’t count them out.



ABC 7 Chicago July 26, 2015

“Chicago’s Access Living Got 10 year Start on ADA”

CHICAGO (WLS) — Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Access Living has been at the forefront in that struggle for equality.



ABC 7 Chicago July 24, 2015

“Editorial: Cutting curbs and opening doors for Chicagoans with disabilities”

Chicago was a decidedly unfriendly town for people with disabilities before 1990.


Chicago Sun-Times July 23, 2015

“ADA: 25 years of opening doors for people with disabilities”

When Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it provided protections to people based on race, color, ethnicity, gender, religion and age. The act did not include disability as a protected class, despite a long history of discrimination against people with disabilities.


Chicago Daily Law Bulletin July 23, 2015

“For people with disabilities, 25 years under the ADA has opened a new world”

One day when I was 23 years old, back in 1977, I was hanging out at Lake Michigan when my friend’s dog knocked my shoes in the lake. I dove in to retrieve them and broke my neck, leaving me paralyzed from the chest down.


Chicago Tribune July 23, 2015

PUSHING FORWARD

By: Marca Bristo, President and CEO, Access Living

Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, 2,000 people with disabilities gathered on the South Lawn of the White House for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signing ceremony. The jubilant crowd heard President George H. W. Bush proclaim the often quoted words, “I now lift my pen to sign this Americans with Disabilities Act and say: Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

At the time of the ADA signing, I had just given birth to my daughter, Maddy. While I was not able to be on the South Lawn with so many of my friends and colleagues, I celebrated the historic event in Chicago, where Mayor Richard M. Daley, who committed to making Chicago the most accessible city in the country, hosted a local event. On that day at the White House, in Chicago and around the country, disability advocates felt as if, finally, we had done it. We passed a landmark civil rights law that would allow people with disabilities to participate in their communities and pursue employment opportunities on a level playing field. We did what so many told us couldn’t be done.

Though we accomplished a monumental feat, nothing about passage of the law was easy. There were barriers at every step. Despite the fact that there were no curb cuts, there was no access to bathrooms, there was no interstate TTY system of communication for people who were Deaf and hard of hearing, there was no emergency captioning and employers were free to discriminate based upon disability, Congress did not believe there was a history of discrimination. Without a history of discrimination, there would be no law.

Mobilizing the disability community, Justin Dart, Jr., vice chair of the National Council on Disability and the Martin Luther King of the disability rights movement, issued a call to action. Dart urged us to tell the world what discrimination looks like. Dart and his wife Yoshiko traveled around all 50 states collecting individual stories of discrimination. The community answered the call, giving Justin three large trash bags worth of testimonials, which he delivered during his testimony to Congress. As former Congressman Tony Coehlo said, in order to establish a record of discrimination, “We had to share the scar tissue of our lives, so Congress would understand how rampant discrimination was across our lives.”

In many ways, the law has changed the world. My daughter, just a few days old at the time Bush signed the law, has never known a world without the accessibility features we all now take for granted. Millions of young people with and without disabilities have grown up in a world without the physical barriers that separate us. Today, people with and without disabilities are riding the same buses, shopping at the same retail stores, drawing money from the same ATM machines and watching movies in the same theaters, making the world a better place for everyone.

The law has had enormous impact, but we can never take for granted the success we have achieved. Budget cuts, backlash and stigma all threaten to dismantle the rights everyone has come to expect. In 1999 and the early 2000s, a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions removed a range of people with disabilities from ADA coverage, people that were included under the original intent of the law. All of these things remind us that the access, accommodations and opportunity we fought for could easily be dismantled.

Similarly, while there has been success, the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act has not been realized in many ways. Just as millions of young people have never known a world without screen readers and bus lifts, they also have never known a world without catastrophically high unemployment rates for people with disabilities (in 2013, less than 20 percent of the working age disable population was employed), without significant achievement gaps between disabled and non-disabled students and without unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities.

In 1990, many people played a pivotal role to get the law passed. Champions like Pat Wright, Congressman Tony Coehlo, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Kennedy, Congressman Owens, Sylvia Walker, Michael Winter, Judy Heumann. Frank Bowe, Elizabeth Boggs, Lex Friedan, Bob Bergdorf, Chai Feldblum, Max Starkloff, Judi Chamberlin, Bonnie O’Day and many more. This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we need new champions who will lead the way toward the unfinished promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Today’s children need to grow up in a world where people with disabilities have the opportunity to find work and to be successful at work, people with disabilities have the option to live with quality supports in affordable, accessible homes in integrated communities and people with psycho-social disabilities live in a world free of stigma.

The anniversary gives us a platform to bring varied segments of our community together for a common goal. In Chicago, under the banner of ADA 25 Chicago, more than 160 organizations from the private, public and non-profit sector have committed to leveraging this 25th anniversary year to create more opportunities and make systemic change in education, employment, technology and community inclusion. With commitment initiatives like this in Chicago and around the country, I am confident that the full promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act will happen. Today, there is the expectation that students with disabilities will learn alongside their non-disabled peers, commuters with disabilities will ride the bus with non-disabled passengers and public spaces will be built to be accessible by all using Universal Design.

Around the world, the Americans with Disabilities Act is the model other countries follow when building a system of human rights protections for people with disabilities. The implementation, enforcement and model of the law has launched a paradigm shift with momentum that will not be reversed. This year, and in years to come, we will ride that momentum, filling in the gaps that still exist, fighting against the barriers that remain, ensuring that the promise of the law applies to all people with disabilities and extends to all sectors of society.


This blog post was originally posted on the Disability.gov Blog, and can be viewed by clicking here.


Marca Bristo

For more than 30 years, Marca Bristo and Access Living, Chicago’s center for independent living, have helped craft local, national and international reforms to protect the rights of people with disabilities and equip them with tools to lead independent, satisfying lifestyles. A pioneer of Chicago’s disability rights movement and a former patient of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Bristo helped launch Access Living, one of the country’s first ten centers for independent living. Since 1980, Access Living has provided peer services and advocacy to over 40,000 people with disabilities, and it has won systemic improvements in housing public schools, public transportation, public access and long-term care.

Beyond Access Living, Bristo is an international advocate for the rights of disabled individuals. During the 1980s, as a member of the Congressionally-appointed United States Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities, she helped draft and win passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Bristo to head the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that provides policy guidance to the U.S. President and Congress. Bristo was the first person with a disability to hold this position. Bristo is also former President of the United States International Council on Disabilities, a federation of U.S. disability organizations committed to fostering Disability Awareness inclusion and rights overseas.

For her dedication and perseverance, Bristo received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States and the Americans with Disabilities Act Award for her role in the creation and passage of the law. She was named a Henry B. Betts Laureate for significantly improving the quality of life for people with disabilities and earned the 1993 United Way of Chicago Executive of the Year Award. Ms. Bristo also was named by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of Chicago’s 100 Most Influential Women. The Chicago Sun-Times included Bristo on its list of 100 Most Powerful Women, and was on the list of Today’s Chicago Woman 100 Women Making a Difference. Other awards include: IMPACT Award Recipient, Chicago Foundation for Women, 2010; BPI 40 Who Have Made a Difference, 2009; and Chicagoan of the Year, Chicago Magazine, 2007.

Bristo is a Trustee of Rush University, a Life Member of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a member of The Chicago Network and a Leadership Greater Chicago Alumni. She earned a B.A. from Beloit College and a B.S. in Nursing from Rush University.

“Disability act marked turnaround 25 years ago, but work to be done”

Life can change in a second. Marca Bristo knows that.

Her second happened in 1977. The then-23-year-old world traveler and career woman inhaled deeply as she watched the waves on Lake Michigan. Next, she dove headfirst into the blue water and — suddenly — into life with a disability.


Chicago Tribune July 21, 2015

“Disability & Theater”

Disability rights activist and playwright Mike Ervin says he “was fortunate to be born in the nick of time” for someone who uses a wheelchair.


Streetwise July 13-19, 2015 Issue

“America’s First Disability Rights Museum on Wheels Comes to Chicago”

The US Business Leadership Network® (USBLN®) is bringing its Disability Rights Museum on Wheels (DRMW), the country’s first disability rights mobile museum, to Chicago on Tuesday, July 21 and Wednesday, July 22 in celebration of the 25 anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


USBLN Disability Rights Museum on Wheels Press Release Chicago July 17, 2015

“Disability Pride Parade returns to Chicago”

Chicago is making sure people living with disabilities do not live in fear. The city is hosting its 12th annual Disability Pride Parade on Saturday, July 18.



ABC 7 Chicago July 18, 2015

“12th Annual Disability Pride Parade Held Downtown”

A parade in downtown Chicago Saturday kicked off a week of events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.



CBS Chicago July 18, 2015

“Millennium Park sets accessibility standards, ADA 25 Chicago Says”

Twenty-five years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. The legislation prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and sets standards that require accessibility in public places.



ABC 7 Chicago July 17, 2015

“People with Disabilities, Older Adults Learn How to Use Public Transport”

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace join the more than 56 million Americans with disabilities in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Oak Park-River Forest Patch July 18, 2015

“Brookfield Zoo Celebrate 25 Years of Americans with Disabilities Act”

The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 19.


La Grange Patch July 17, 2015

Mayor Emanuel Commemorates The 25th Anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

On July 16, 2015, Mayor Emanuel hosted a breakfast to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During the breakfast held at City Hall, the Mayor met with the ADA 25 Chicago Steering Committee representing the disability community, business, philanthropy and civic leaders to discuss critical disability initiatives going forward.


Mayor Emanuel Commemorates The 25th Anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Mayor Emanuel during breakfast to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ADA

Mayor Emanuel speaking to members of ADA 25 Chicago

“To Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act”

At their 83rd Annual Meeting, the United States Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution to Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.


The United States Conference of Mayors Resolution