Design is a Social Justice Issue

Ed Roberts (1939-1995) was an international leader and educator in the independent living and disability rights movements. Throughout his life Ed fought to enable all persons with disabilities to fully participate in society.

Story By

Bill Leddy

A true pioneer: Ed was the first student with significant disabilities to attend UC Berkeley; he was a founder of UC's Physically Disabled Students Program, which became the model for Berkeley's Center for Independent Living (CIL) and over 400 independent living centers across the country. He was the first California State Director of Rehabilitation with a disability; he was awarded a MacArthur fellowship; and he was co-founder and President of the World Institute on Disability.

The concept of the Campus took form shortly after Ed's death in 1995. The Berkeley Mayor's Office convened a meeting of representatives from the City Council, UC Berkeley, CIL, WID and other disability leaders to discuss how to memorialize Ed's work. Disability community leaders decided they could best commemorate Ed's work by supporting the organizations that he helped start and the Independent Living Movement that he championed. They decided to do this by establishing a center dedicated to fostering collaboration and improving the services and opportunities for people with disabilities locally and worldwide.

We believe everyone deserves good design, and guided by the principles of Universal Design - the creation of environments that are equally usable by individuals of all abilities - the Ed Roberts Campus exceeds the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Universal Design strategies and elements were studied and selected to maximize benefits to the broadest variety of users while remaining economical and replicable as a case study for other buildings and communities.

Disability is part of life, and fighting for access to our cities, to jobs and to independent living is Ed’s legacy. Design that engages these challenges in the places we work and live is the great opportunity for us.