Access To Independence mourns the death of their founder, Frances A. Pizzola

(Frances A. Pizzola/Photo Provided)

Access To Independence will be closed on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 to show their respects to Frances A. Pizzola, who passed away last Friday.

Frances A. Pizzola, 57, of Cortland and founder of Access To Independence, passed away surrounded by her loving family, on Friday July 12, 2019 at Crouse Hospital after a brief illness.

According to the press release by Aaron T. Baier, Executive Director of Access To Independence, Pizzola was born in Cortland on 1961 and was a Cortland resident her entire life.

Fran was a faithful member of both St. Anthony’s Church and Grace Christian Fellowship. She graduated from Cortland High School in 1980 and attended SUNY Cobleskill pursuing a career in the medical field.

In December 1981, while sledding, she broke her neck and sustained a spinal cord injury that caused her paralysis.

Ultimately this came to shape her life’s mission in advocating for all people with disabilities.

Fran went on to complete her BS and MS in education at SUNY Cortland.

Noticing the barriers surrounding her, she began a grassroots effort, which led to the organization of the Cortland County Accessibility Committee (CCAC).

In 1998, through Fran’s work and dedication, she founded Access to Independence Cortland County, Inc. as the 36th Independent Living Center in New York State.

Fran received many professional honors; most notably in 2001-NYS-Senate-“Women of Distinction”, 2003-Cortland High School-“Wall of Fame”, 2017-NYSILC-NYS Disability Hall of Fame and 2018 -Access to Independence Shining Star Award.

Full Obituary, Services and Memorial Information are available at