Who was Ed Roberts (1939-1995) and why did the US House of Representatives designate January 23 to honor his life?
After contracting polio at 14 in 1953, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, Roberts spent 18 months recuperating in the hospital. When he consciously decided to live, he decided to live his life with a vengeance, no matter what obstacles might lay ahead of him.
People with disabilities in the 1960s were not as visible as they are today. The barriers to inclusion in the community were physical as well as attitudinal. Ed set out to change all that. He advocated to get admitted into the University of California, Berkeley (Cal) and to get one of the hospital infirmaries changed into a dorm for students who, like himself, needed wheelchair accessible housing. Several of these students formed a group they called "The Rolling Quads."
They were champions of independent living in the community for all people with disabilities and instrumental in getting the first curb cuts installed in Berkeley which they recognized made the physical world accessible to more people than just wheelchair users.
That was just the beginning. Ed earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, taught at Cal and went on to help found the first center for independent living. He was named to head the California Department of Rehabilitation, founded the World Institute on Disability, married, had a child, and traveled the world to spread the word about disability rights, accessibility, and inclusion. He is widely considered to be the father of the independent living movement.
To learn more about Ed Roberts and his contributions and to get a feel for what a great spirit he had, click here to visit a special section of the Minnesota Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Click the image above to view a short film about Ed Roberts and his philosophy called: "Free Wheeling." Click here for more ways to celebrate the Ed Roberts legacy, including downloading the Ed Roberts Board Game and purchasing mugs, t-shirts, and posters.