SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The late activist and advocate Ed Roberts believed disability is a strength. He demonstrated that belief by becoming the first student with severe disabilities to attend the University of California, Berkeley and became known as the Father of the Independent Living Movement. While serving as California Department of Rehabilitation Director, Roberts offered several grants to start Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in the state, which now number 28. His legacy lives on and is at the heart of the employees' and volunteers' work at the Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC) helping Californians with disabilities live and work independently.
"Roberts did not hold himself to what 'was' but what 'should be' for persons with disabilities," noted ILCSC's Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Norma Jean Vescovo. "He was a leader among leaders with a vision that went beyond California to internationally address the needs of persons with disabilities. And if he encountered a closed door, he opened it to everyone's benefit."
ILCSC opens doors daily for people living with disabilities. One service ILCSC provides that clearly carries on Roberts' legacy is its successful job placement program, which offers job readiness training and coaching, community mobility training and job placement assistance as well as a job club.
"We're breaking our own record right now on helping people obtain and retain jobs," said Marcy Hernandez, ILCSC's Community Education Coordinator, who has worked at the center for 15 years. "We serve thousands of individuals annually at our Van Nuys location and our newly opened center in Lancaster. It's gratifying to promote the opportunities available to persons with disabilities."
Additionally, ILCSC recently conducted two public trainings on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which passed because of activists like Roberts. The ILC also held an open house commemorating the anniversary of the ADA that was attended by the public and legislative representatives. And ILCSC continues to provide other programs and services advancing Roberts' legacy year round, including Independent Living skills training, housing and other referrals, assistive technology, peer support, advocacy.
"Having the chance to work with Roberts in the Independent Living Movement was exciting and rewarding," recalled Vescovo. "He was a necessary and dynamic force who asserted, 'If people with disabilities have a future, then everyone in our society will have a future.'"
To commemorate Ed Roberts Day on January 23, the California State Independent Living Council's is posting its YouTube video, "A Passion for Freedom," which recalls the history of the Independent Living Movement and features Roberts' extraordinary work. Additional information is available on Youth Organizing! Disabled & Proud's website.
The California State Independent Living Council (SILC) is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living.
The SILC Mission: To Create Policy and System Change for Independent Living
SOURCE California State Independent Living Council (SILC)