99% Invisible: 308- Curb Cuts
May 29, 2018 10:53 PM - Subscribe

A wheelchair in a storage room at the Smithsonian is a jumping off point for a discussion of Ed Roberts, growing assertiveness of disability rights activists, and curb cuts.

A few highlights:
  • Roberts had paralysis due to polio and had to sleep in an iron lung. He taught himself "frog breathing" which meant he could leave it during the day; at the time the response was to literally tell him to stop breathing on his own.
  • In another sign of the times Roberts was initially told flat out that he was too disabled to attend Berkeley.
  • Eric Dibner seems not to like the claim that "midnight commandoes" were making Berkely more accessible by adding curb cuts illegally, though in the interview says they (1) added curb cuts (2) illegally (3) at midnight so it seems a fair label . . .
    posted by mark k (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
    I really appreciated this episode. I'm a graduate student at Berkeley and I wish this history was more widely known and that the university would try harder to live up to this legacy. Recently there have been troubling cuts to disabled student services and I don't get the sense that universal design is a high priority for the administration, instead I'm afraid they use budget problems as an excuse for continually decreasing access and support.
    posted by milkweed at 8:23 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

    I really loved this episode. It seemed so perfectly on the 99% wheelhouse that I was surprised they hadn't covered it yet. I actually spent some time making completely sure that it wasn't a rerun of an episode I somehow missed.
    posted by General Malaise at 3:53 PM on May 31, 2018

    This one is definitely going in the "Classic 99PI" cannon. I think about it all the time when I'm walking now.

    MeFi's Own Jesse Thorn praised the episode on Twitter and shared his own personal experience, as Ed Roberts was a good friend of his dad's. Great quote: "Ed is a civil rights hero, but he was also hilarious and stubborn and pushy. He intentionally ran into and over people with his chair regularly. He smoked weed in his iron lung. People would ask him if he could have sex and he would say, 'How the fuck do you think I got a kid?'"
    posted by radioamy at 7:51 PM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

    gladly - thanks for the tip, can't wait to listen to that!
    posted by radioamy at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2018

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