On Monday, January 23, 2017, Independence, Inc. will join
other Center’s for Independent Living and Disability Rights Activists in
celebrating Ed Roberts Day.
Scott Burlingame, Executive Director
Ed Robert’s, the father of the national independent living
movement, spent his life challenging societal expectations of people with
disabilities and encouraging people with disabilities to take charge of their
lives, and to leave a life of poverty, pity and dependency behind.
Roberts contracted polio at the age of fourteen in 1953. He
spent eighteen months living hospitals. When he finally returned home, he was
paralyzed from the neck down, with the exception of two fingers on one hand and
several toes. He slept in a negative pressure ventilator, also known an iron
lung, and was forced to swallow air using facial and neck muscles during the
However, Roberts insisted on participating in his own life
and in his community. While attending the University of California, Berkeley,
he formed student groups that insisted on positive expression of disability
identity. This eventually led to formation of the first student-to-student led disability
services program in the country.
After college, Roberts led advocates to create the Berkeley
Center for Independent Living (CIL), the first advocacy program run by and for
people with disabilities. Today, there are over 300 CIL’s and CIL satellite
offices across the country.
In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Ed Roberts Director
of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), despite the
fact that that VR had once claimed Roberts was too severely disabled to work.
After leaving his post at VR, Roberts co-founde
d the World Institute on
Independence, Inc. Center for Independent Living is proud to
continue the work started by Ed Roberts. Like R
berts, we believe people with disabilities
should take control of their own lives and that our public policy priorities
should encourage independence and accessibility. We work every day to help people with
disabilities achieve their independent living goals and to make our
better place to live, work and play for people with disabilities.