Monday, August 2, 2010

Ed Roberts, UC Berkeley Alum and Wheelchair Activist Honored

January 23 has been declared "Ed Roberts Day". Who is Ed Roberts and why does he deserve a state day?

Ed Roberts graduated from my University, UC Berkeley. But that was alot easier for me than it was for him. You see, Ed Roberts needed an iron lung as well as a wheelchair and that made getting housing difficult. At the time, institutions could simply refuse to accomodate people with special needs and Ed refused to accept the word "NO".

Ed was finally accomodated in an empty wing of the Berkeley Student Health Center and slowly other students with disabilities followed.

According to the UC Berkeley Media Release:

They called themselves "The Rolling Quads," and Roberts was their leader. They pressured the campus to become more accessible and to fund support services so that they could attend classes while living independently.

"Ed pushed and prodded and argued and convinced people it was wrong" to discriminate against people with disabilities, says Hippolitus. And, he added, Roberts helped disabled people shift their perspective "from being an object of pity and charity — which was forced upon them but they passively accepted — to saying, 'No, that's wrong.' "

Roberts' persistence paid off. The Rolling Quads' advocacy helped launch the Physically Disabled Students Program, the first such student-led campus organization in the country. That program gave rise to Berkeley's Center for Independent Living, which became a national model for disability advocacy
.

Ed Roberts taught in Berkeley's political science department and later went on to lead the Center for Independent Living until he was appointed Roberts director of the Department of Rehabilitation. In he co-founded the World Institute on Disability. Ed died in 1995.

The date of 23 January was selected as Ed Roberts day, because it is his birthday. Ed was born on January 23, 1939 and he died March 14, 1995.

In his 56 years of life, Ed left the world a much better place than he found it.