For the first time in California, we celebrated Ed Roberts Day on January 23, honoring the life and legacy of the disability rights leader and the accomplishments of the disability civil rights movement. This statewide day of significance is the result of legislation I introduced – Senate Bill 1256 – which was signed into law last year.
I joined the Ed Roberts Day celebration at the newly opened Ed Roberts Campus (ERC). This universally designed, transit-oriented center, located at the Ashby BART Station in Berkeley, houses the offices of various disability organizations as well as fully accessible meeting rooms, a computer/media resource center, a fitness center, a cafe, and a child care center.
The festivities were hosted by the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers as well several ERC partners, including the World Institute on Disability (WID) and the Berkeley Center for Independent Living. Zona Roberts (Ed's mother and a disability activist), Joan Leon (Ed's long-time friend and co-founder of WID) and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, along with youth leaders with disabilities gathered together to share memories of Ed and his tireless work and advocacy that led to greater independence and equality for millions of disabled people throughout the world.
Last week, I was presented with the California State Independent Living Council's 2011 Distinguished Service Award at the Ed Roberts Day celebration, in Sacramento. It was a great honor to receive this award.
And now, we may have the opportunity to recognize the importance of Ed Roberts to the disability rights movement on the national level. Congressman George Miller recently introduced a resolution (H.R. 1759) to create a national day of honor for Ed. It is my hope that the legacy of Ed and the countless other activists who fought for disability rights will one day be taught in every school across the country so that young people with disabilities will know their history, and that all young people will understand the importance of the Independent Living Movement and the contributions of people with disabilities to our nation.