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Edward V. Roberts

A polio survivor and respiratory quadriplegic, Edward V. Roberts’ doctor predicted he would live life like “a vegetable.” Instead, he was inspired by his disability to transform not only his life but the lives of thousands of other persons with disabilities.

Determined to attend college, he was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley where he lived in a hospital because dormitories were inaccessible. A newspaper article about his plight led to other students with disabilities being admitted to the school, and the group’s advocacy resulted in the Physically Disabled Students Program (PDSP) – the prototype for modern independent living centers. The program led to the founding of the Center for Independent Living (CIL), dedicated to supporting people with disabilities in achieving their independence. Roberts served as its first executive director.

Roberts went on to found nine additional independent living centers in the U.S., creating an independent living movement that became unstoppable. He then turned his attention to other countries, founding international organizations for people with disabilities, as well as helping to organize several independent living centers around the world. By the time he died in 1995, he had traveled more than one million miles to advocate for supporting people with disabilities in their efforts to lead independent lives. He will always be remembered as the father of the independent living movement.

He will always be remembered as the father of the independent living movement.