Photo of Zona Roberts



The CIL is pleased to honor Zona Roberts for her extraordinary support and encouragement of hundreds of young people with disabilities whom she met, fed, counseled and worked with over the past five decades as a leader of the Independent Living/Civil Rights Movement of People with Disabilities.

Zona is the mother of Ed Roberts.  So, the first young disabled person she encouraged was her son who had contracted polio in 1953. Never one to tolerate someone doing nothing, Zona encouraged Ed to use his intellect to achieve his life goals, and helped him where she could.  Ed was accepted at UC-Berkeley and he and his iron lung were housed in the University hospital.  After that, Zona made plans to move to the city with the dream that she and her three younger sons might also go to University of California, Berkeley.

Over the years, two of her sons did go to Cal and Zona gained a MA in psychological counseling from John F. Kennedy University.  By that time Ed was founding the Physically Disabled Students Program at UC-B and, after that, working with other disability leaders to start the Center for Independent Living.   During those years, Zona's house on Ward Street was a second home for Ed (he had his own place in Berkeley and was totally independent) and a favorite home-away-from-home for an endless wave of  young people with disabilities who arrived in Berkeley to benefit from the State's personal assistance benefit program and CIL. By then, she was working as a counselor at CIL and, in her spare time, with adults and parents of children with disabilities.  She traveled extensively with Ed, spoke at many conferences in the US and internationally and was actively involved in the campaign to build the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.  One of her proudest moments was joining Representative Barbara Lee welcoming the public to the opening of the Ed Roberts Campus in 2012.