For Immediate Release
January 23, 2015, Ed Robert’s Day
Santa Barbara, CA - January 8th, 2015
On January 23rd, 2015 California will celebrate Ed Roberts’ Day, marking the birthday of one of the most important figures in the national disability rights movement.
Diagnosed with polio at the age of 14, and after successfully completing high school, Roberts was determined to study at the University of California at Berkeley. His desire to attend was met with resistance from school administration as well as the Department of Rehabilitation. Through Ed’s persistent self-advocacy, he was finally admitted to the university, but had to stay in the campus hospital because the residence halls on campus were not accessible.
As news of Roberts’ story spread across the country, many students with disabilities began to apply to Berkeley, These students, who came to Cal, formed a group called the “Rolling Quads” to advocate for accessible buildings on campus.
The “Quads” successfully advocated for the creation of the first disabled students program at a U.S. university. This office assisted students with disabilities with finding personal care attendants and other supports needed to live independently.
In 1972 Ed Roberts, along with fellow advocate Judy Heumann and others, founded the Center of Independent Living (CIL) in Berkeley, California. The center differed from other disability organizations at the time, because a majority of the staff were people with disabilities. People were able to receive information, about independent living, from others with similar backgrounds.
Within a few years centers like CIL started opening throughout California and today the state has 28 of them. These organizations are known as independent living centers. In the United States there are over 350 such centers, and other exist throughout the world.
In 1977 Roberts and 200 others, with and without disabilities, took over the San Francisco Federal Building to protest the government’s refusal to implement a law that would require all buildings that receive federal funding be accessible.
The “sit in” was successful in not only getting the law enforced. It also demonstrated the unity among groups in working for equal access for all. Support from LBGTQ, civil, and woman’s rights organization’s as well as union and church groups helped make this protest a success .
Later in life, Roberts served as the director of the Department of Rehabilitation, a group that initially would not support him when he attended the University of California.
Today the work of Ed Roberts and others is still needed. People with disabilities still face obstacles in employment, housing, transportation and healthcare. His legacy continues strong on the Central Coast with the Independent Living Resource Center. We are an organization working to promote independence and full access for individuals with disabilities through advocacy and education, in the community.
If you want more information about Ed Roberts, you can ‘Google’ him and watch the videos on YouTube. To participate in our advocacy work please contact Jacob Lesner-Buxton at (805) 963-0595 X 105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Independent Living Resource Center
Independent Living Resource Center, Inc.
423 West Victoria St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101