A Day in the Life of Ed Roberts
Lee Roberts talks about his father, Ed Roberts
Improvements in Technology
Lee Roberts: Well, I think some of the... the things, technology and communication tools that changed over the 12 to 14 years that I was with my father was definitely the use of like the use... like the first cell phones came into contact. My father got a cell phone with AT&T that was a special phone for him that connected to his chair. Anywhere that he was, he could use it, because oftentimes that was critical because you never know what can happen if an attendant is somewhere in the other room or if... He could push a button, and the phone would immediately dial someone.
The respirators changed. They required less power. They were smaller. They were less weight. And that was probably two or three times that changed over a period of like 10 years. And then also the batteries changed. They lasted longer. I mean I had to push my father up so many different hills with his batteries running out, that—and so did many people. That technology changed too. They started lasting longer. They started becoming a smaller size. Those were three critical points.
He never replaced his chair. Never. All he did is make small modifications. He just would put a little pad here or he'd make an adjustment to the padding on the side. Nothing ever changed about that because he had specific requirements for his body and a chair that he never wanted to have it changed. We tried... We had this amazing group in Stanford make up a brand new chair for him that eventually turned out costing as much as Porsche, but in the end there was specific wants and needs for my dad on how he had to have a pad on his right knee right here and then on the left one when it was lower, how he sits and his body because one hip is a little higher than the other. And how that adjusts on the back and what you need for the padding on the back. And how he could operate his hand on the left hand side but his right hand had to be at a specific angle with padding in between a couple of the fingers. It was so specific that there was also modifications that he needed, so he always liked his original chair.
One thing that my father and I shared together, which he was always proud of, was the curb cuts. Because he invented curb cuts. We always tested curb cuts, me and him. I was either riding in his chair, but how sloped was the curb cut? How much of a drop-off at the end? My father had about 8 inches between his battery cell and the ground. If that curb cut wasn't right and it was cut off and down, it's was going to slam the back of his chair. I mean curb cuts, I mean completely utilitarian. I mean greatest good for the greatest number of people. I mean I... I would be rollerblading by the side of him or riding my bike or simply walking. My version of testing the curb cut was when my father went down it, I would stand on the side and look and how did it go? How smoothly did the chair go? Did the chair go down right into the street no problem? Those were beautiful. But... Or there was times when it would come down and bam! There would be such a drop-off and it would hit the back of his chair, and that would bounce my father's neck in a brace and that caused... Cuz he didn't have shocks on his chair, so he felt every part of the road. So if there was a drop-off right there it hit the batteries, he'd get a little jolted.