Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Mary Lester

Audio transcript: On the significance of CIL, Berkeley as a symbol
Date: January 22, 1998
Interviewer: Susan O'Hara

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.

I think it was very powerful and it's a very interesting question why. I think one of the reasons is because it had some very high-profile people associated with it who later went on to get even higher profiles. And a lot of people did scatter—a huge number of people involved with it went off to do other things, taking parts of CIL with them. We were also very experimental—both Ed and Phil were willing to try all kinds of things, as was Judy, who you know, accepted all sorts of odd projects to take on that they thought were innovative or would have some value. CIL was in many ways an incubator for projects: somebody would come in the door, as we discussed earlier, and say, "I have this project," and we'd say, "Okay, write a grant and if you get funded, we'll run it." Then a lot of them spun off.

There were just a lot of creative people—like the Computer Training Project, for example, which is now the Computer Technologies Project. Scott Luebking and Neil Jacobson basically came in with Rehab and IBM with this idea and started an organization, which was highly successful and spun off. In fact has been a model for a whole network of organizations like that all over the country. There's a whole—I forget what the name of it is, but there's an organization of computer training projects. And then there was DREDF [Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund], which was started as the Disabled People's Legal Resource Center and also spun off. First it was DPLRC—shortened soon to DLRC.

But CIL attracted a lot of the best and the brightest who had a lot of creative ideas. And it was a place that they could try them out. Judy's had a lot to do with why CIL became so famous, and the fact that Ed went to Sacramento raised the profile of CIL dramatically. Also California was probably one of the first—and you'll have to correct me on this, because I wasn't really involved in this, but I think they were probably one of the first states to legislate funding for independent living centers. And Ed had a tremendous amount to do with that in Sacramento.

And also, Berkeley attracts attention just by the nature of it and with the Free Speech Movement being here in the early sixties. That had an impact on just about everything that followed afterwards because all eyes turned to Berkeley. And I think, "Ah, hotbed." I think things that are done here are magnified in ways that they might not be if they were done elsewhere.

End of transcript

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