Have you ever noticed the “Google Doodle” drawing above the search bar that changes almost every day? Sometimes they change it to match the season or holiday, or a major event happening in the world. Today, January 23, the artwork honors world-renowned disability activist Ed Roberts on what would have been his 78th birthday. Referred to as the father of the independent living movement, Mr. Roberts was at the forefront in fighting for the rights of students with disabilities to be able to attend college.
At the age of 14, Ed contracted Polio just two years before the vaccine was released. After spending 18 months in the hospital, Ed was finally released, but was paralyzed from the neck down except for two fingers on one hand. After his release, Ed returned to High School learning to deal with his new challenges. When it came time to graduate, he was given a hard time by the administration for not completing the necessary physical education and driving requirements. After petitioning and finally receiving his diploma, Ed was accepted to the University of California Berkeley.
Ed Roberts is known for being one of the first college students in America with a severe physical disability. He created the first Physically Disabled Students Program in the nation which ultimately led to others enrolling at UC Berkeley. Ed graduated with his Masters in Political Science and later returned to the University to lead their Center for Independent Living.
In 1976 Roberts became the Director of the California’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Ed passed away in 1995, but since then has been recognized and honored for all of his accomplishments. Some of these recognitions include: his wheelchair being displayed at the National Museum of American History, a building named after him at UC Berkeley, induction to the California Hall of Fame — as well as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring January 23rd of ever year a day of special significance.