Ed Roberts's wheelchair, about 1978
Outfitted with the type of seat used in Porsche automobiles and a large headlight for traveling at night, this motorized wheelchair captures the unique personality of a man who dedicated his life to securing rights, freedoms, and improved quality of life for people with disabilities. Ed Roberts, who was paralyzed by polio at a young age, began his activist career in 1962 when he fought for the right to attend the University of California at Berkeley. He went on to help establish the first independent-living centers for disabled people in the United States and traveled the world campaigning for disability rights. Roberts died in 1995, and after a memorial service held for him in Washington, D.C., friends wheeled his chair to the Castle and left it there with a note explaining that this donation was a tribute to Roberts's "amazing life." The unexpected gift has inspired curators to research the history of disability and seek new ways to include people with disabilities in the Smithsonian's story of America.
Disability, artifacts relating to, Medical History, Intriguing Objects