3.13. Ed Roberts - disability rights advocate with polio
Ed Roberts, co-founder and past president of World Institute on Disability, was a leader in the civil rights movement that championed the right of people with disabilities to lead independent lives. He received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award in 1984 and used the grant to establish WID as an influential public policy center.
Roberts was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of polio contracted at age 14. He became the first severely disabled student to attend the University of California at Berkeley, and he secured federal money to establish the Disabled Students Program at the university, a first for the nation. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in political science from the university and taught political science there for six years.
In 1972, he helped found the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, a self-help model of advocacy and service by and for people of all disabilities. In 1975, Governor Jerry Brown appointed him head of the California State Department of Rehabilitation, a position he held until 1982.
Roberts died in 1995 of natural causes at the age of 56.