Learn more about Ed Roberts and what made him a pioneer leader in disabled rights.
Celebrate Ed Roberts Day with the following resources:
Videos of Ed Roberts Watch or hear Ed Roberts himself in three different video interviews with him.
Ed Roberts discusses the history and future of the independent living movement in the U.S. at the innagural conference of independent living.
Video documentary of Ed Roberts titled, "Free Wheeling" that chronicles through some of his day-to-day in the community.
Ed Roberts with TV show 60 Minutes back in 1989 with Harry Reasoner.
User Submitted Testimonials Click on their names to view their story.
"At Eds memorial service in 1995 I spoke briefly and afterward, from the crowd of hundreds, person after person came up to tell me what my brother had meant to them. One woman from Russia who used a wheelchair recounted hearing Ed on the Soviet radio and how this had empowered her, challenged her to leave the confines of a retirement center and that she was now free. Another told of being visited by Ed in her hospital bed after becoming paralyzed ,how her story brought tears to his eyes. She could wipe away his tears and he couldn't. This gave her a perspective that had endured. He traveled around the world bringing people the message of integration and accommodation.
My mom, who was present, is still chagrined by his speaking out when he learned that his Japanese translator had omitted in his speech to the Empress of Japan and her company that he was a sexual being. He was advised not to correct the translator for reasons of serious breach of etiquette. He did it anyway. It was important to him that the stereotype be addressed and corrected. I have many stories from my years with him but these are the ones that came up around advocacy."
"I am a Catholic mother with a son with autism (PDD/NOS). As a Catholic, I used to lead and coordinate one Sunday Mass choir at our parish church. With a son with autism, it was a tough challege to cope with my choir group and control my son in the church at the same time. So what I did was met with our parish pastor, a very dear and one compassionate priest who is now with the Lord. His name is Fr. Ed Souci. So, I met with Fr. Ed and informed him that as much as I loved leading and coordinating our choir group, I had to give it up so others can take up the responsibility. I shared with him that many of our parishioners could sing, play ukulele and lead a choir, but none could take up the responsibility to help deal with my son with autism during Mass. My son at the time was about nine (9) years old. It was the time when his behavior was so uncontrollable, he'd rock the church by kicking and hitting the pews with his hands & feet. I shared with Fr. Ed that with God's help, I had to make time to deal with my son's behavior in church and that if my son's behavior were uncontrollable and loud, that I wouldn't take him out of the church because he had every right to be in the church even with his behavior. I further added that the church should welcome people who are with challenges. Fr. Ed was so understanding and empathetic with my sutuation. It took me and my family about 3 agonizing months to see the miracle. Alii was then able to attend Mass and follow all its rituals without making anymore odd noises and uncontrollable behavior he used to do. I thanked God for I knew He made it all possible for the priest to understand my situation, the congregation and my family in enduring all that I had to deal with of Alii's world of autism. For parents of children with autism, I pray that you all have steadfast courage, humility & not pride to tackle all challenge and always be assertive. No one but you (besides our family members) can speak for our child(ren) with autism."
-Margaret R. Olopai-Taitano
"Happy Ed Roberts Day everyone! I'd like to share my advocacy story with all of you because I believe in anything from a loud passionate voice, to a misunderstood murmur. I'd like to shed light on a particularly amazing person I know, her name is Alexa McBride. Alexa has Cerebral Palsy, a motor/speech impairing disability that does not affect the person's mind. Over the last 2 1/2 years I have been her companion and we are engaged to be married. She shows her passion like no other I've ever met. One such occasion is where I was helping my mother move and I receive a phone call from Alexa. When I answered the phone I was talking to a fire captain, so as you can imagine I found this quite odd. He then proceeds to tell me that many people were greatly concerned that she was having a seizure or a stroke. At this same time I could hear her talking in the background so I knew right away that she was okay. I then hear Alexa state that they took her headeray (the device that makes it possible for her to control her wheelchair) off of her chair. I then realize I immediately needed to inform the fire captain that he has done something that is taking away someone else's rights. That fire in me is the reason I know my self to be an advocate, and therefore thankful for who Ed Roberts was and what he meant and means to the disabled community, and independent living."
"As a high school English teacher, I strive to be an advocate for my students and empower them to be achieve their goals despite any obstacles that life has put before them. I find that by sharing the struggles and successes of inspirational people such as Ed Roberts has helped my students overcome their own personal challenges. For the past 3 years, I have worked with CRIL and DANY to bring their stories to Hayward High School and educate my students about the disability rights movement. These presentations are the highlight of my teaching each year, and leave a lasting impression on my students. I continually remind my students that if Ed Roberts and Damary Bustos (a DANY youth advocate who I also had the joy and privilege of having as a student her 9th and 12th grade years) can go to college despite life's obstacles, then there is absolutely no reason why they can't go to college and make their dreams come true."
"My name is John I was born in 1955 in the state of New Mexico I spent years in a hospital from the time I was 14 days old till I was 14 years old. I was born with Osteogenesis imperfect. I remember having school in the hospital back in the 60s. In 1969 when I went home for good all, I knew is what I learned in the hospital. I began to go out in my wheelchair and see what was in the real world. It was different then what I had expected something was wrong. People with disabilities where treated different then non disabled persons. Access was a major issues at that time. I had a teacher come to my house and teach me, that was referred to as home bound. Then I guess the law changed for persons with disabilities. I began to attend a regular school like every one else. Some how people still treated persons with disabilities different. You had to ride that bus and sit in that class with your own kind. This was the first time I every experienced social injustice. As I got older I always wanted to make a change for equality in my life and the lives of others. At the age of 38 I began to use fixed route bus services to get around down that's when it I realized coach operators where rude and sometimes just passed you by when you where waiting at a bus stop. That's when I realized people with disabilities have rights to just like everyone else in America. I will never forget I saw a book called THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT. As I began to read I learned about the history of the disability movement. I am now a strong advocate in the community as well as voice for the rights of others. This road has taken me to places I never though existed and have had the opportunity to meet people all over California and New Mexico. I hope one day to have my own (ADA) consulting services. Transportation, Housing, (ADA)site review for public and privet sector. The list go's on and on. One thing I will say I don't believe in (ADA) Drive by-law suit you can't expect non disabled persons to know why you have rights. It is only through education and communication people will understand. If practice these rules and have a passion to see beyond your disability and see your ability you will succeed. Now only in the event you can't negotiate then by all means EXERCISE your legal rights. In closing it is only through God grace that I am able to tell this story, thank you."
-John Anaya Sr.
"Years ago I had an interview with Senator Perata in front of my building. And a large group of home care workers were out in from of my building for the interview. The new media came up to my apartment for pictures with the senator and it was in the local paper the next day. But it was on the local news that night. I also enjoyed DCAD last year a lot. In 2014 I got the Jack Campbell award. Every DCAD for me is very enjoyable. Doing the march to it I find very fun. Thanks."
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill when he was in office creating Ed Roberts Day, encouraging schools and other institutions to educate the public about the disability-rights pioneer every year on his birthday, Jan. 23. Ed sadly passed away in 1995, but his influence still affects me personally and the community I serve. In order for me to tell my story about the first time I met Ed Roberts, I need to give a little background. I had been working as a psychiatric technician at Sonoma Developmental Center after working at some pretty terrible units at Napa State Hospital. I had decided that I wanted to become an attorney and had just finished law school, and was working as an intern at Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) while I studied and took the bar exam. My goal had been to become an advocate for moving persons with mental illness in state hospitals in favor of community living. My wife and I had also had a business called In-service Video which provided education for nurses via cable television and I had gained some expertise in video production.
DREDF in those days did an annual program at Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley's Law School, on a variety of subjects dealing with disability rights. The goal was to inspire law students ot become disability rights lawyers. I had asked my directing attorney, Sid Wolinski, if I could video tape the sessions to be used later and he consented.
The day of the event, I came early and set up the camera. I also found a prime spot up front so I could keep an eye on the camera and have a good view of the speakers. So the room filled, first speaker came, and in the middle of the first presentation what seemed like this enormous contraption with this noisy device parked itself right in front of me - how rude. I remember that my first thought was - would someone get this thing out of my way? That was the first time I met Ed.
As it turned out the contraption was Ed Roberts and his electric wheelchair and the noise was his respirator. He was the next speaker. To watch his presentation, go to http://achievingindependence.tv/video/Ed_Roberts/Full/FullEdit.html
I had no way of knowing at the time the influence this man would have over my life as an advocate, but also as a human being. I had just finished being involved in a pretty important case that made major changes for persons with developmental disabilities in developmental centers. I felt that I had a pretty good handle on being a compassionate caregiver as a nurse and as an attorney to be. I knew it all and I would bestow my advanced thinking on persons with disabilities. What I had to learn was how to relate to persons with disabilities as people, and not as objects of my compassion. At that point I was ending a 17 period as a psych nurse and had dedicated my life to caring for the less fortunate.
Ed challenged everything I thought I knew. I had never dealt with someone who had the level of disability he had as anything other than an object to be cared for. I certainly never met someone this disabled that was my equal. Now in fact - Ed was not my equal - he was the master - I was the student. For those who don't know the Ed Roberts story, Ed got polio as a child, and became one of the leading disability rights advocates leading to many changes making countless things we take for granted assessable to persons with disabilities.
A good place to lean about Ed and is incredible life is http://yodisabledproud.org/ed-roberts-day/#share . He had been featured on 60 minutes. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1421828030&v=ZxidR5SZXxA&x-yt-cl=84411374
One of the rifts that Ed liked to talk about was the myth of the super-cripple (his term). Ed would share all sorts of stories about how the public either relates to persons with disabilities as objects, and at the other end of the spectrum as super-cripples with superior powers to compensate for their disabilities. This puts a lot of pressure on many persons with disabilities because they are expected to do aspirational feats to inspire others. The lesson in his stories is that persons with disabilities are just people in most cases with the same desires and the same weaknesses as anyone else. Like any other civil rights movement, we will conquer our racial prejudices when we all as a society relate to others as people and not by the color of their skin. Rights and opportunities that the non-disabled take for granted have yet to be achieved despite a lot of movement forward - there is much more to do. True disability rights will be achieved when we as a society see persons with disabilities as people - no better - no worse - than you or me.
So in honor of Ed, please take some time and learn about his remarkable life. Ed Roberts Day is a good way to teach not only about disability rights, but more importantly about the value of relating to persons with disabilities as people, not as objects of our compassion."
-Stephen W. Dale
"The advocacy story I remember most vividly was when I started college and had to advocate for myself to make sure that my accommodations were obtained. I remember spring quarter of my freshman year I did not have notes for one of my classes and never approached the professor about it. When I started sophomore year I decided that I would physically approach each professor and be up front with them about what I need. The first attempt was nerve-racking, but successful and since then have been strongly advocating for what I need in every aspect of my life."
"From a young age I realized that because I use a wheelchair people would view me differently, for good or ill. Ed Roberts was one of the few disabled role models I had growing up. This was because Ed didn’t allow his disability to define him, and while my parents and I also strongly believed this, having a historical figure as a reference was very beneficial to me. As I aged I realized that a disability whatever it is apparent or not doesn’t matter. What matters is what a person decides to do with it which I attribute largely to Ed’s example. No one chooses to be disabled and while it makes life difficult it also gives us unique opportunities. I’ve been using computers from a very young age, without my disability forcing me to develop the skills I use everyday, I think I would be a very different person."
The Ed Roberts Board Game Want to try your hand at some Ed Roberts trivia? Gather some friends and have some fun with this FREE downloadable board game!
- 2-6 Players
- Ages 14 and up
- Prints on 6 standard 8.5x11 sheets of paper
- Only needs tape to assemble
Download the game board and tokens by clicking [HERE]. Assembly instructions are provided within.
Download the trivia questions and instructions [HERE].