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Honor and Celebrate Ed Roberts Day

January 23, 2020
Source: Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities

Celebrate the life and legacy of Edward Verne "Ed" Roberts (January 23, 1939 - March 14,1995), a civil rights leader, activist and pioneer in disability rights. Mr. Roberts was the first student with severe disabilities to attend the University of California, Berkeley (UC-B). Building on his experience in establishing access and supports as a student he went on to become the father of the Independent Living Movement. 

Share & Follow: #EdRobertsDay | #ERDunity

Resolution: Ed Roberts Day

On December 15, 2010, the United States House of Representatives declared January 23 as "Ed Roberts Day."

Who was Ed Roberts?

Mr. Roberts was a strong advocate and self-advocate, fighting for full access to education, housing, employment, and community participation for people with disabilities who were otherwise shut out from opportunity. He fought for and saw the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws to protect the rights of people with disabilities, and served as a mentor for young activists making their way in the world.

After contracting polio in 1953 at the age of 14, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, Ed Roberts spent 18 months in the hospital recuperating and he slept in an iron lung at night.

People with disabilities in the 1960s were not as visible as they are today. The barriers were physical as well as attitudinal. Ed Roberts 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.

That was just the beginning. Ed Roberts earned 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.

Quotes from Ed Roberts

  • "We have to get out there and change the old attitudes."
  • "There are only two kinds of people in the world: the disabled, and the yet-to-be-disabled."


Remember and celebrate the leadership, life and legacy of Ed Roberts by learning about advocacy and self-advocacy, exploring and understanding our rights under the ADA and other civil rights legislation, and supporting young people on their path to full participation.

Ed Roberts was a big proponent of mentoring young advocates and self-advocates.

Questions on the ADA?

For information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
contact your regional ADA Center in the ADA National Network
at 1-800-949-4232 or visit the website:

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