Linda's Writing

Linda Mastandrea, born in Chicago, Illinois was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy at the age of three. She grew up alongside her twin sister Laura; they did everything together. Except one thing—participate in sports or gym class.

Though Linda didn’t compete in sports, she excelled in school, graduating in the top ten in her high school class. She went on to earn her BA from the University of Illinois in 1986, and her J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1994. While an undergraduate at U of I, she learned about wheelchair sports and about disability advocacy, and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. From 1990-1999, Linda represented the United States at two Paralympic Games, three World Championships, the Pan American Games and the Stoke-Mandeville Wheelchair Games, winning 15 gold and 5 silver medals in wheelchair track. She set national, world and Paralympic records numerous times during her career.

Off the track, Linda pursued her next goals—becoming an attorney and a published author. Graduating from Chicago-Kent College of Law, Linda has a practice in disability law and civil rights, representing people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and access to government services and benefits. She has taught Disability Law, and lectured on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability laws nationwide. Linda became a published author (together with her sister Donna) when her first book was published, titled Sports and the Physically Challenged: An Encyclopedia of People, Events and Organizations.

Linda has received numerous awards and accolades, most recently as the first female Paralympian inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. She was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business Forty Under 40; received the International Olympic Committee President’s Disabled Athlete Award, the David Award from the Italo-American National Union, and was named an Outstanding Woman Leader in Sports by the YWCA of DuPage, just to name a few.

Linda serves on numerous boards and committees, including: AT&T’s Advisory Panel on Access and Aging, the City of Chicago’s Building Board of Appeals, and the Cook County Forest Preserve Conservation and Policy Advisory Council. She serves as chair of both the International Paralympic Committee Legal and Ethics Committee and Variety-the Children's Charity of Illinois.

One of her proudest moments was working with the Chicago 2016 bid organization, where she had the honor of presenting alongside then President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley to try and win the right to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“You challenged the audience in a
positive and thought provoking way.
Keep putting the ‘definition of disability’ message out there!”

Bruce Flynn, Director
Washington Business Group on Health

“We were lucky to secure Ms. Mastandrea for our keynote speaker. Ms. Mastandrea had everyone’s attention as she talked about her life and how she made it to one of the world’s leading wheelchair track athletes. Cerebral Palsy of NE Florida would recommend Ms. Mastandrea to anyone looking for a great speaker. She has a wonderful story to tell.”

Christi Evans, Development and Marketing Director
Cerebral Palsy NE Florida

“On behalf of Shriner's Hospital, we would like to extend our gratitude in helping make this year’s camp a success. Your knowledge and expertise in track and your enthusiasm had an inspiring effect on all the teens who participated in the camp this year. Your “Get out There” attitude had a positive effect on the campers and has helped these teens develop a sense of self worth. Thank you for helping
make the camp a success!”
Kris Johnson and Sara Klaas
Shriner's Hospital for Children

“In our opinion, the best indicator of the success of your presentation was the enormous amount of student participation during the question and answer session. Our students were excited to learn more about you and were willing to participate. Thank you!”
Alice Smith and Amy Ferraro
Addison Trail High School

“Ms. Mastandrea’s daylong presentation received the highest evaluation scores of any of those presented at this year’s summit. Many attendees sought me out to remark on how good she was.”

Jason Cheeseman-Meyer
National Client Assistance Program Training Project

“You were an excellent speaker! The students were very impressed and I’m sure you impacted their thinking!”

Cindy Schendel
Northern Illinois University

“Wow! As our featured keynote speaker you have made a lasting impression on those who attended the Ann Komosa Scholarship Luncheon. This is the second time I’ve invited you to be a keynote speaker. Each time the audience is so impressed and wonderfully treated to a fantastic message.”

Deacon Don Grossnickle
Archdiocese of Chicago