January 23rd:
Ed Roberts Day

After much deliberation, we decided to have a virtual celebration of Ed Roberts Day 2022 to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 spread that an in-person, public gathering would entail.

Below, please find the link to Youth Organizing!
Disabled & Proud's O
ral History Project as well as a video about Ed Roberts himself.

Photo of Ed Roberts.

** To turn on YouTube's auto-generated captions, please click the CC button on the bottom right-hand corner of the video.

A youth-led interview collection of stories of Ed Robert's legacy from Disabled elders.

Ed Roberts

“If I’m a vegetable, I’ll be an artichoke, prickly on the outside, with a big heart in the middle.”

Ed Roberts was a charismatic leader in the independent living movement who championed people with disabilities rights. When he contracted polio at age 14, his doctors told his family that he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. Ed later recalled this edict, saying, “If I’m a vegetable, I’ll be an artichoke, prickly on the outside, with a big heart in the middle.”


Ed was a brilliant student. With the support of his mentors and his mother, Zona Roberts, he applied to the University of California, Berkeley, which had never accepted a severely disabled student. He was accepted, somewhat accidentally, and arrived on campus totally unprepared to accommodate him. Because he used an iron lung, the university housed him in the campus hospital, where other students with severe disabilities joined him in the following years.

Ed learned of a Federal funding opportunity for special programs on college campuses and led an effort to gain funding for a physically disabled student program at Cal. This program helped disabled students live independently in dorms or the community and was the model for forming the Center for Independent Living (TheCIL) in 1972 in Berkeley, California. Ed became Executive Director of TheCIL in 1974, and in 1976 he was appointed the State Director of Vocational Rehabilitation by Governor Jerry Brown. He became an influential and revered advocate for people with disabilities, and in 1983, received a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, which he used to help establish the World Institute on Disability.


Ed firmly believed in empowering others to be advocates and activists in his work and life. In this spirit, The CIL is pleased to recognize and honor those individuals who, like Ed, have made significant contributions to the success of the independent living and disability rights movement in the US and internationally.

Photo of Ed Roberts.
Poster for the 2022 Ed Roberts Day.

YO! Disabled and Proud is partnering with the National Disability Mentoring Coalition to bring you the resources to celebrate Ed Roberts Day by engaging in National Mentoring Month!

Share your thoughts!

We invite you to share your thoughts on Ed Roberts, on California declaring January 23rd a special day, or any other related ideas. We will maintain this special page for at least a week so people can have a chance to share and to read what others have shared.