Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Linda Perotti

Audio transcript: On the need to expand services beyond the Physically Disabled Studentsí Program
Date: January 7, 1998
Interviewer: Kathy Cowan

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

Did the PDSP program evolve into the Center for Independent Living? Is that a whole separate idea?

That's what I started to say. You asked about the evening political conversations. By that point, the students had gotten what they needed in terms of these services, so they could really be more organized in finding attendants. They weren't restricted to being students and living at Cowell Hospital. Up until that time, really the only option was if you were severely disabled—i.e., in a wheelchair—and you came to be a student at Berkeley, you pretty much had to live at the university there, at Cowell Hospital. Now, with the Disabled Students' Program, options were provided. Housing could be found, and now you had choices. You could live at the hospital and maybe move out to your own housing, or start out in your own housing, or whatever.

What started happening is that more and more people who were not students started calling the Disabled Students' Program, asking for these same services. As Berkeley became known to be a place where disabled people—forget even students—but just disabled people were accepted, more and more disabled people were coming to Berkeley. They had been hearing, you know—one by one, one or two here, one or two there—about this program that was accepting disabled students.

Now, all of a sudden, you've got a disabled population, a small one, but you have one, in a city that's very tolerant of all kinds of people. So disabled people were not really considered much of an oddity and could live comfortably—socially and culturally—in Berkeley, and this started to be known around the country. More and more disabled people were coming to Berkeley and the immediate area to live, because of hearing that there was a disabled community building up.

As a result—I know when I worked at the Disabled Students' Program, a lot of non-students called, looking for services. You might say—sure, if it's a slow day and they're looking for an attendant and you happen to know a couple of people, yes, you're not going to just hang up on them. But they certainly couldn't get wheelchair repair service or something like that. Technically only students were qualified to get services from the DSP.

So who had the idea?

That's what these evening political conversations—a lot of that —was about. It was about, Well, we've come this far. And they would sit around and scheme. John Hessler, Herb Willsmore, Ed Roberts, Larry Langdon—by this time, Jim Donald was gone—Phil Draper—they'd all sit around scheming. What next? What can we do next? By this time, to me, it was just more political stuff. I just wanted to see the war end and kind of go to normalcy in that area. But they were really into, what next for the disabled movement.

Well, what next was widening the scope of the services, providing services to people outside of the student community. And the demands were growing and growing and growing. I think what happened was that they must have written another proposal showing a need to how the money would be spent. I believe they [UC Berkeley] gave them, like, a $10,000 grant to set something up.

End of transcript

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