VI. The Independent Living Movement 1970 to Present B. Ed Roberts: The Birth of Independent Living
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"While I was at Berkeley, I was still in contact with Jean Wirth, my advisor from community college. She told me that she was trying to establish a nationally funded pilot project for minority students attending universities. Her concept was that the dropout rate for minority students in colleges wasn't because they couldn't do the work, but because of the drastic changes involved in moving away from one's community into a setting where there weren't cultural supports. She was in Washington setting up the guidelines for the grant, and invited me to help them with a program for people with disabilities as a minority.

"This was my first trip by airplane. When I returned to Berkeley, we submitted a grant proposal, and it was somewhat of an inside job. We got the funding and began the Physically Disabled Students Program (PDSP) at Berkeley.

"The program had three main parts: a pool of attendants and emergency attendants for people; a group of engineers who would repair wheelchairs; and, eventually, an accessible housing list. The PDSP was so successful that people in the community began to use its resources. On numerous occasions the school told us that we couldn't serve anyone who wasn't a student. But we did it anyway.

"My mother Zona managed the attendant pool. I remember we sent someone to visit with a high ranking military official who was responsible for the conscientious objectors. Edna Brean met with him and told him about what attendants do for people with disabilities and that conscientious objectors would be ideal for the job. This official was enthusiastic – he thought this was just punishment for people who refused to fight. So, we got them signed up. These were the kind of people we wanted to work with.