Google Doodle Honors Disability Activist Ed Roberts

If you’ve searched for anything using Google recently, you might have noticed the Google Doodle – the illustrations that replace the Google search logo on holidays – is particularly special. On Monday, January 23, Google commemorated what would have been the 78th birthday of disability activist Ed Roberts by featuring an illustration of Roberts lecturing in front of a classroom.

Roberts, considered an early leader of the disability rights movement, became paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 14 after contracting polio. Roberts’ first notable activism came when he was in high school and was denied his diploma for being unable to complete gym and driver’s education classes. His petition was successful, and after graduating high school, Roberts became the first significantly disabled person to attend the University of California, Berkeley. During his time at Berkeley, Roberts founded the Physically Disabled Students Program and graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science.

“I watched Ed as he grew from a sports-loving kid, through bleak days of hopelessness, into self-acceptance of his physical limitations as he learned what was possible for him to accomplish,” his mother, Zona Roberts said. “His years at [University of California, Berkeley] were great ones as he both enjoyed his college status and got in touch with his leadership qualities. He took great pleasure in watching people with disabilities achieve greater acceptance.”

Continuing his advocacy work, Roberts became the director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1976, and in 1983 co-founded the World Institute on Disability. Roberts died in 1995 at the age of 56.

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