Paralyzed from the chest down in a diving accident at age 23, Marca Bristo became a staunch disability activist early in life, starting Access Living just two years after her accident in 1977. From there, her work expanded to the national and international stage. She was an essential influence for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, and continued her advocacy for decades after it was signed into law.
Said U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth: “Marca reached out to me during my first few months home after Walter Reed, and she has been a friend and counselor—especially on disability issues—ever since. Without Marca’s work over the last 30 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act would not be in existence and I would not be a U.S. Senator. Because she crawled up the steps of the United States Capitol to pass the ADA, I get to roll through its corridors to cast my votes in the U.S. Senate. While we have so much progress yet to make, the disability community can thank Marca’s leadership, activism and sacrifice for the more inclusive society we live in today. I was honored to call her my friend and will miss her dearly.”
She passed away on September 8, 2019 from cancer. Additional information about Marca Bristo's trailblazing civil rights work can be found on Access Living website's press release here:
A brief video and interview with former U.S. Senator Harkin is contained within the linked website. May she rest in power.