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State of the Bay

Design, Disability and Social Justice: Berkeley’s Ed Roberts Campus

Host: Joseph Pace

Producer: Susan Britton

We've all heard of green design -- the widely embraced architectural movement based on the core value of environmental sustainability. But what about design focused on social sustainability? This hour we're going to explore a parallel movement, known as Universal Design, that holds that architecture should be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations: the young and the old, the temporarily-abled and the disabled. And as it happens, a national model of Universal Design now resides in our own backyard: the newly completed, 85,000 square-foot Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.  Fifteen years in the making, the Campus was designed by and for a consortium of disability groups, and it aims to become the foremost center for disability rights, advocacy and education in the world.

But how exactly does one design a building that accounts for the innumerable variations in human ability?  Can universally accessible buildings be beautiful?  What role does design play in the broader disability rights movement? And what role can the Ed Roberts Campus play in bringing about wider acceptance of Universal Design among architects nationwide?


  • Dmitri Belser, Executive Director, Center for Accessible Technology, which works to provide access to computers for people with disabilities.  He is also the president of the Ed Roberts Campus.
  • Susan Henderson, Executive Director, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, a national disability rights law and policy center that advances the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.
  • Bill Leddy, a founding partner of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, a San Francisco-based firm