When Linda Mastandrea's role as director of Paralympic sport and accessibility for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games came to an end with Chicago's failed bid, Linda still had her personal Paralympic Games memories to bring a smile to her face. Linda, who was born with cerebral palsy, achieved fame as a world-class athlete, winning 15 gold and five silver medals in international wheelchair racing, including Paralympic Games gold and silver medals. She also was the first female Paralympic athlete to be inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
Although she retired from competition in 1999, Linda directs her energy into her private practice on Chicago's North Side, focusing primarily on disability discrimination and her duties as a hearing officer for the Illinois State Board of Education for special education cases.
Linda also sets aside time for her public-speaking engagements and establishing a wellness business with her sister and business partner. She is a freelance writer and co-authored the book Sports and the Physically Challenged: An Encyclopedia of People, Events, and Organizations.
She began playing sports in college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and while traveling with the school's wheelchair basketball team, experienced firsthand the physical and attitudinal barriers that existed in the nation and the world. In the early 1990s, she was active in lobbying for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and decided that a law degree would enable her to help others in an even more significant way.
Linda says that cities like Chicago have become much more accessible as a result of disability advocacy efforts. "There is still a long way to go and I don't know that we'll ever be perfect, but the increased awareness the ADA has brought to these issues has served as a force to educate and effect positive change without always having to pursue the legal angles," she says.