Ed Roberts Day

Developmental Disabilities Administration

January 21, 2022

Ed Roberts

“It’s a chance for us to remember the work he did, and the change that he brought to the disability community,” said Debbie Roberts, Assistant Secretary of DDA. “It’s also a reminder of the importance advocates have in our work – their voices are critical and needed.”

Here’s a message from the Disability Inclusion Network about this important holiday for all of us.

Ed Roberts known as the “Father of Independent Living,” was a strong and dedicated advocate and activist for people with disabilities. Paralyzed by polio as child at the age of fourteen, Roberts was considered “unemployable” by the California Department of Rehabilitation, a prejudiced decision he successfully fought to overturn.

In the 60s people with disabilities were not as visible as they are today. Barriers during this time were often physical as well as attitudinal. Ed set out to change all that. He advocated to get admitted into the University of California, Berkeley (UC-B) 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.

Ed Roberts went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees, taught at UC-B 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.

Roberts would further go on to be appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr in 1975. to lead the state’s Department of Rehabilitation – which years earlier had found him “unemployable” – he served the state with distinction until 1983, when he founded the World Institute on Disability in Oakland. The Institute’s pioneering work helped nationalize California’s In-Home Support Services by adding the Home Service option to Medicaid. In 2011, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in recognition of his leadership and advocacy on the behalf of people with disabilities.

Learn more about Ed Roberts here at Rolling Start

and at Youth Organizing! Disabled and Proud

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