Roberts was the first student with severe disabilities to attend Berkeley
American activist Ed Roberts was born on January 23, 1939.
After contracting polio at 14, Roberts became paralyzed from the neck down (he retained mobility in two fingers on one hand and several toes).
He pursued his education by telephone until his mother insisted he attend school once a week. It was then that he decided to see himself as a "star", rather than a "helpless cripple".
He almost didn't graduate from high school because he was missing credits for physical and driving education. At this time he began his activist work, successfully petitioning to obtain his diploma.
Roberts became the first student with severe disabilities to attend UC Berkeley, obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees in political science and paving the way for other students with similar needs by founding the Physically Disabled Students' Program, the first of its kind in the country.
Known as the father of the Independent Living Movement, Roberts became the Director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. He also co-founded the World Institute on Disability.
"We who are considered the weakest, the most helpless people in our society, are the strongest and will not tolerate segregation, will not tolerate a society which sees us as less than whole people. [...] [W]e will reap together, with our friends, will reshape the image that this society has of us. We are no longer asking for charity. We are demanding our rights."
- Excerpt from Roberts' victory speech following the Section 504 Sit-In of 1977.