Search title image

Photographs

Ed Roberts, His Life and His Legacy

March 25, 2011
MTC is proud to join with other public and private sponsors to celebrate the official opening of the Ed Roberts Campus, a transit-oriented development at the Ashby BART station in Berkeley that brings together under one roof a dozen organizations involved in disability rights, education and services. As for the person who gave the building its name, longtime Berkeley resident Ed Roberts was a trailblazer in the independent living and disability rights movements. The polio that paralyzed Roberts from the neck down at the age of 14 turned out to be a catalyst rather than a roadblock in his life. Roberts became the first severely disabled student to attend UC Berkeley, where he founded the first disabled students program in the nation while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science. The disabled students program planted the seed for Berkeley’s pioneering Center for Independent Living (CIL). After a stint at college teaching, Roberts served as the second executive director of Berkeley’s CIL until he was tapped by Governor Jerry Brown to head the state Department of Rehabilitation. Recognition of Roberts’ trailblazing role came in 1984 when he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant, which he used to found the World Institute on Disability, a research and policy center. When Roberts died in March of 1995, community leaders came together to plan a memorial to his life. Out of those meetings came the idea of development of a campus where the involved organizations could come together to support and learn from one another, better blend their services, and establish a national center for furthering the Independent Living Movement of People With Disabilities.

The most popular photo of Ed (photo by Lydia Gans)

Ed Roberts (photo by Lydia Gans)

A photo taken at CIL on University Ave (1973)

A photo taken at CIL on University Ave (1973)

The two sides of Ed: this love of life: Here with his son Lee…

The two sides of Ed — this love of life: Here with his son Lee…

…and his delight in adventure: swimming with dolphins in Florida. After receiving a MacArthur “genius” award, he visited another awardee, a naturalist who was studying the lives of dolphins.

…and his delight in adventure: swimming with dolphins in Florida. After receiving a MacArthur “genius” award, he visited another awardee, a naturalist who was studying the lives of dolphins.

Because wild and scenic rivers in California were in danger of being tamed, Ed and Cathy joined a group to ride the rapids on the Stanislaus River

Because wild and scenic rivers in California were in danger of being tamed, Ed and Cathy joined a group to ride the rapids on the Stanislaus River

Working In Russia as part of the World Institute on Disability’s team of trainers, Ed caused quite a stir, since most Russians had never seen an electric wheelchair or a person with a respirator on the street.

Working In Russia as part of the World Institute on Disability’s team of trainers, Ed caused quite a stir, since most Russians had never seen an electric wheelchair or a person with a respirator on the street.

Polio Strikes the Roberts Family in 1952

The entire Roberts family contracts polio, but only Ed is hit severely. Zona, Verne, Ron, Mark, Randy and Ed.

The entire Roberts family contracts polio, but only Ed is hit severely. Zona, Verne, Ron, Mark, Randy and Ed.

Ed at first preferred home schooling because he didn’t like people staring at him.

Ed at first preferred home schooling because he didn’t like people staring at him.

Ed goes to High School where he discovers that if people stare, then that makes him a star and he might as well enjoy it. Clipping shows Ed with Ron and the Principal.

In subsequent years several young people with severe disabilities join Ed at UCB. They called themselves the “Rolling Quads”.

Left: Ed goes to High School where he discovers that if people stare, then that makes him a star and he might as well enjoy it. Clipping shows Ed with Ron and the Principal.

Above: In subsequent years several young people with severe disabilities join Ed at UCB. They called themselves the “Rolling Quads”.

After two years at a community college, Ed decides to study Political Science and applies to UC-Berkeley. When he arrived, there was no place for him to live until Henry Bruin, the Medical Director, said Ed and his iron lung could be in the University’s Cowell Hospital.

After two years at a community college, Ed decides to study Political Science and applies to UC-Berkeley. When he arrived, there was no place for him to live until Henry Bruin, the Medical Director, said Ed and his iron lung could be in the University’s Cowell Hospital.

Berkeley Years: Center for Independent Living

Doug Brown and Gene Turitz carry CIL’s banner. (photo by Ken Stein)

Doug Brown and Gene Turitz carry CIL’s banner. (photo by Ken Stein)

Ed with the CIL team at the Telegraph Avenue office.

Ed with the CIL team at the Telegraph Avenue office.

Ed becomes Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living in 1973

Kitty Cone and Joan Leon at CIL

Left: Ed becomes Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living in 1973

Above: Kitty Cone and Joan Leon at CIL

Ed becomes State Director of Rehabilitation in 1975

Ed sworn in by Governor Jerry Brown

Ed sworn in by Governor Jerry Brown

Ed with his top staff in his office in Rehab.

Ed with his top staff in his office in Rehab

Lee Roberts is born in 1976. This is a press clipping from the Sacramento Bee.

Above: Lee Roberts is born in 1976. This is a press clipping from the Sacramento Bee.

Right: Lee talking with his dad in the evening.

Lee talking with his dad in the evening.

Ed and his wife, Cathy, and their dog Tremor outside their home in Sacramento.

Ed and his wife, Cathy, and their dog Tremor outside their home in Sacramento.

Cathy, Ed and Architect Sally Swanson decide how to renovate their new home so that the iron lung is the center of activity.

Cathy, Ed and Architect Sally Swanson decide how to renovate their new home so that the iron lung is the center of activity.

Section 504 and the World Institute on Disability

Ed saw advocacy as an important part of his role as Director of Rehab. He joins the crowd demonstrating outside of the SF Federal Building while a group of 
disability leaders were 
inside occupying the building for 28 days.

Ed saw advocacy as an important part of his role as Director of Rehab. He joins the crowd demonstrating outside of the SF Federal Building while a group of
disability leaders were inside occupying the building for 28 days.

Dale Dahl at the American Public Transit Demonstration in SF. (photo by Ken Stein)

Dale Dahl at the American Public Transit Demonstration in SF. (photo by Ken Stein)

Ed and others testify at a Congressional hearing convened by Congressmen George Miller and Phillip Burton to address the 504 issue.

After two terms as part of the Jerry Brown administration, Ed and Judy Heumann and Joan Leon form the World Institute on Disability (WID).

Left: Ed and others testify at a Congressional hearing convened by Congressmen George Miller and Phillip Burton to address the 504 issue.

Above: After two terms as part of the Jerry Brown administration, Ed and Judy Heumann and Joan Leon form the World Institute on Disability (WID).

The WID family

The WID family

Ed and Joan at a fundraising dinner for WID

Ed and Joan at a fundraising dinner for WID

The Continuing Legacy

Ed and Joan are interviewed by the national press about WID’s Personal Assistance Services research findings.

Ed and Joan are interviewed by the national press about WID’s Personal Assistance Services research findings.

Ed with Bill Clinton

Ed with Bill Clinton

Lee Roberts spoke at the UC Berkeley memorial service held after Ed died in March 1995. Judy Heumann, Zona Roberts and Ron Roberts were watching.

Lee Roberts spoke at the UC Berkeley memorial service held after Ed died in March 1995. Judy Heumann, Zona Roberts and Ron Roberts were watching.

The legacy—an international center on disability that houses the Center for Independent Living and the organizations that emerged from it or grew up alongside it, all of which are dedicated to the full integration of people with disabilities in society.

The legacy — an international center on disability that houses the Center for Independent Living and the organizations that emerged from it or grew up alongside it, all of which are dedicated to the full integration of people with disabilities in society.