Patti Gregory-Chang, Board Member
Attorney, Advocate, Mother
Patti Gregory-Chang was born in May of 1963. She never had vision in her right eye and has been blind since the age of twelve, when the sight in her left eye began failing as a result of microthalmia. For Patti, however, her blindness is no more interesting or important than any of her other characteristics, such as being a woman or an attorney.
Growing up in Harbor Springs, Michigan, Patti lived a normal life, learning early that blindness was not a tragedy. “We lived in town. My younger brother Gerry and I hung out. I did winter sports and worked a little in the summer. My parents (Eve Lauer and Donald Gregory) did a good job of treating me like anyone else. They had high expectations,” she said.
After graduating from Harbor Springs High School in 1981, Patti planned to attend school with hopes of becoming a teacher of the visually impaired. After earning her teaching certificate at Michigan State University, she discovered a passion for law and enrolled at the University of Chicago Law School.
Patti graduated from law school in 1988 and has worked in the City of Chicago Law Department ever since. She began her tenure there in the Traffic Division and then worked her way up to assistant corporation counsel. In this position she prosecuted housing court matters in the Circuit Court of Cook County and handled collection matters for the Building and Land Use Litigation Division of the City of Chicago Law Department.
In 1998 Patti became senior assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department. In this role she prosecutes cases, supervises attorneys prosecuting cases, coordinates law clerks and externs, and serves on various committees and task forces. She belongs to several professional associations and is active in the Municipal Administrative Law arena in Illinois.
Patti first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1981 in Michigan. She moved to Illinois in 1985 and has been increasingly active ever since. She served as Chicago chapter president and as first vice president of the Illinois affiliate before becoming president in 2006. She was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors in 2008, and was appointed by President Maurer to chair the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee in 2011.
“The NFB is huge. When I found the NFB, I realized that its philosophy was the same as the one I had fortunately grown up with: 'blind people are able to live full and productive lives just like any sighted person. We want the same chances to succeed as everyone else. With the right techniques, blindness can be reduced to an inconvenience, rather than being a tragedy.' ”
The NFB's monthly publication, the Braille Monitor, has featured several articles by Patti on a variety of blindness topics: Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and the Illinois affiliate of which she is president. She is also a frequent contributor to the ISBA Administrative Law Section newsletter.
Patti and her husband Francisco Chang have raised two children. Francisco is an RN with several national certifications. They were married in 1984. "I love to brag about my kids, John, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana, and Julia, who attends the University of Illinois at Urbana now. They both excel and care about people. They are really special," she said.
Patti and Francisco work to strike a balance among the priorities in their lives: work, family, philanthropy, and play. Francisco has tricitizenship because he is of Chinese descent and was raised in Belize. As a result of her husband's experiences, Patti administered practice exams and review sessions for permanent residents trying to obtain US citizenship at the Pui Tak Center in Chicago from 2002 to 2006.
“When we find time in our busy schedules, one of our favorite things to do is travel,” Patti said. “We have traveled extensively in Central America, and Mexico.” Wherever the Changs go, they illustrate the NFB's core belief that blind people are normal people who cannot see, and their lives and contributions can be as rich and valuable as those of anyone else.