Ed Roberts Day

 In #zerobarriers, Events
Photo of the late Ed Roberts
Ed Roberts. Father of the independent-living movement. Photo credit: Jjslist.com

Today is national Ed Roberts Day. Some of you may not know who Ed Roberts was or what he accomplished. Ed Roberts was born January 23rd, 1939 in San Mateo, California. He was like most young boys growing up; he had a passion for playing baseball and was very active. At the age of 14, Robert’s contracted polio and became paralyzed from the neck down. Requiring an iron lung to breathe, Ed had to attend high school by phone until his senior year, when he was able to attend class in person. Ed’s early life was full of obstacles as a result of his disability. His high school was not going to let him graduate because he could not participate in physical education or driver’s ed classes. His mother petitioned the school board and Ed was finally given his diploma.

Off to College

In 1962 Ed was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley. While initially unaware of Ed’s disability; Berkeley attempted to refuse to admit Roberts after learning about his disability; saying that due to his iron lung, no dorm that would be able to accommodate the 1,000 pound machine. Roberts would not accept this and challenged Berkeley’s decision. He was accepted after working out a agreement to have him live in a unused wing of the campus medical facility, on the grounds that it would be furnished as a living space rather than a medical facility. Soon Robert’s was joined by other disabled students who; like Roberts; needed accessible living quarters. Roberts soon after created the Physically Disabled Students Program, which was the first such program of it’s kind.

An Activist emerges

While at Berkeley, Roberts activism began take shape. Roberts led the Berkeley Center for Independent Living which became the model for disability rights around the globe. Roberts later became the director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1976. In 1983 he co-founded the World Institute on Disability. Ed Roberts passed away in 1995.

If it was not for Ed Roberts and his conviction for equal rights, I would not be doing what I do. The world would be a sad place. Because of Ed Roberts, the Independent Living model was born. He opened so many doors for people with disabilities, and ensured that they were accessible.

For a directory of centers for independent living in the U.S. click here. I want to leave you with a short video on centers for independent living in our area. Watch the video by clicking here.

Sources: Time.com; heavy.com; mn.gov/mnddc/ed-roberts

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