Remembering Ed Roberts, Pioneering Disability Activist

By: DiversityWorking Press
Date Posted: January 24, 2017

People with disabilities today can find great inspiration in Ed Roberts, the pioneering disability activist, whom Google Doodle just paid homage to, on the occasion of his birthday.

Google Doodle paid homage on Monday to what would have been the 78th birthday of pioneering disability campaigner Ed Roberts — who fought throughout his lifetime for people with disabilities to have the right to fully participate in society — with artwork featuring the activist giving a lecture from his wheelchair. <a href="">click here</a>

The story of Ed Roberts is a remarkable example of perseverance, self-acceptance, and courage in helping others despite one's limitation.

Contracting polio at the age of 14, Roberts – in the words of his mother - “grew from a sports-loving kid, through bleak days of hopelessness, into self-acceptance of his physical limitations as he learned what was possible for him to accomplish,” the report above said.

At first, he had to attend school by telephone communication, but later his mother encouraged that he attend school in person even just a few hours once a week.
At school, he faced his deep fear of being stared at and transformed his sense of personal identity. He gave up thinking of himself as a "helpless cripple," and decided to think of himself as a "star." He credited his mother with teaching him by example how to fight for what he needed. <a href="">click here</a>

Roberts’ first notable activism came when he was in high school and was denied his diploma for being unable to complete gym and driver’s education classes. His petition was successful, and after graduating high school, Roberts became the first significantly disabled person to attend the University of California, Berkeley. <a href="">click here</a>

At Berkeley, Roberts continued his fight for himself and fellow students with disabilities.

There, he led other Berkeley students with severe disabilities in creating the Physically Disabled Students Program, the first of its kind.
Roberts went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Berkeley, and later returned to lead the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, which inspired many similar centers around the U.S. <a href="">click here</a>

Ed Roberts made a big mark indeed in American society working for the rights of people with disabilities to fully be integrated into the mainstream. In 1976, he was appointed by then Gov. Jerry Brown as director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Roberts also co-founded in 1983 the World Institute on Disability. <a href="">click here</a>

When he died in 1995 at the age of 56, Ed Roberts had left a better world for people with disabilities, by fighting against the prevailing stereotypes about them, and proving that people with disabilities can also achieve as much as their non-disabled counterparts.

Yes, that is the problem people with disabilities still face – stereotypes and biases persist until today, including in the workplace. Hence, people with disabilities face difficulties in their search for jobs, or if employed, are relegated to sub-minimum pay because of set notions about them that are being perpetuated.

As noted by an article by –
Indeed, people with disabilities are perfectly capable of living life to the fullest, but filmmakers and storytellers seem to cater to age-old formulas that perpetuate stereotypes against them, and films most especially, are a powerful medium that create a huge impact on viewers.
Hence, in the world of work, the myth or the stereotype that people with disabilities cannot work as well as able-bodied people do still persists, and often, workers with disabilities are compensated with “sub-minimum wages.” <a href="">click here</a>

Diversity and inclusion means people with disabilities are accepted, appreciated for their unique contributions. They have the right to be afforded respect, understanding, and dignity, as every other human being.

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