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Ed V Roberts, Father of the Independent Living Movement

In January, his birth month, we celebrate and honor Ed V. Roberts, an American disability rights activist who forged new avenues of success at a time when doors were closed to people with disabilities. 

Here are some Highlights of Ed Roberts Life: 

  • He contracted polio at age 14 and was paralyzed from the neck down.
  • He fought for a high school diploma. He was initially denied a diploma as he did not take driver’s ed or PE.
  • He fought for admission to UC Berkeley. After acceptance, the University denied admission when they discovered he needed an iron lung in his dorm room. He challenged the decision and was given an empty wing of the then health center for his room. A dozen students with disabilities quickly moved into that wing and formed a group called “The Rolling Quads”.
  • He and The Rolling Quads worked with the University to found the first Physically Disabled Students Program.
  • In 1972 he was instrumental in founding the Center for Independent Living, an advocacy group that fought for changes that would give people with disabilities access to community life.
  • In 1962 he was deemed too disabled to hold a job. In 1975, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Roberts director of the Department of Rehabilitation, a position he held until 1983.
  • He passed away on March 14,1995. In 2010, January 23rd was named Ed Roberts Day in California.

Watch the 60 Minutes Interview with Ed Roberts.

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