Lester T. Pritchard
Chairman, Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities
Lester T. Pritchard dreamed of a better world for people with developmental disabilities - one of inclusion for all and community for all.
As a disability rights advocate and mentor who was born with cerebral palsy, Lester dedicated his life to disability rights, championing individuals with disabilities and their right to live independent lives that are meaningful and purposeful. This vision shined throughout Lester’s career, as he worked to gain physical access to businesses, public accommodations and residencies. In 1997, he co-founded Citizens for Housing Options Meeting Equity Standards, which helped pass one of the nation’s first ordinances that requires publicly funded buildings to be accessible to individuals with developmental disabilities. He also cofounded the Campaign for Real Choice in Illinois, a grassroots organization that promotes the rights and independence of individuals with disabilities.
Lester was known locally and nationwide for pushing governments to fund community-based services for people with disabilities that would allow them to live independently. He spent almost as much time rallying legislators in Springfield & touring the state to organize support for a better system with more community services for people with disabilities as he did in his hometown Urbana. An agent of change who inspired each person he encountered, Lester was instrumental in closing Howe Developmental Center, advocating tirelessly for years to close the controversial, beleaguered institution so its residents could have access to better, more inclusive living conditions.
The Governor of Illinois appointed Lester to the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities in 1999, and he was elevated five years later to become Chairman. At the Council, Lester helped initiate reform of the state’s disability policies, spearhead research studies and blaze a path in which the Council took a more central role in the development of progressive services for people with developmental disabilities.
Lester believed in advocacy and taking action for a better future. He was a member of the Disability Rights Action Coalition on Housing, the Board of Champaign County Healthcare Consumers, a board chair for P.A.C.E and an Urbana Human Relations Commission board member.
Throughout his life, Lester won many awards for his continual service for people with disabilities, including the American Bar Association's Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights in 2008. He devoted countless hours to speaking about disability rights in both academic and professional settings.
Like many of us, he considered full inclusion, equality and opportunity for people with disabilities the modern civil rights battle of our time.
As one of the nation’s most foremost, lauded disability equality leaders, Lester made his mark. Will you?
A Chicago-area mother started a play center for her daughter and friends who have autism. Her goal is to expand so other children with autism can have a safe environment to be themselves.
A colorful "Happy birthday to you" sign hangs on the wall at 1423 Valle Vista, but there are no celebrants wishing the birthday boy well.
Calumet City police had been called to subdue Stephon Watts 10 times in less than two years, using Tasers at least once on the 15-year-old with Aspberger's syndrome.