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Daily Planet staff

Monday September 10, 2001

The Edward Roberts Campus received a $400,000 grant Wednesday from the NEC Foundation of America that will allow the latest environmental, assistive and information technologies to be included in the construction of the nonprofit corporation’s home in the eastern parking lot of Ashby BART Station. 

The planning for the facility, which will cost approximately $30 million to construct, began five years ago, after Edward Roberts died at the age of 56. Roberts, a quadriplegic, was the first student with serious disabilities to attend UC Berkeley and was also a leader in the movement for independent living and disabled rights. 

The ERC partners, nine organizations catering to the needs of disabled people, are expecting approximately $20 million of the funding to come from grants. So far they have raised $1.4 million. They are expecting the additional $10 million to come from loans. 

“We’re very excited about this grant because it is going to give us an opportunity to look at equipment that is now being used,” said ERC Director of Fund Raising Joan Leon. “It gives us a chance to see what exactly we want to do in the future and the money that will allow us to go in the direction we decide.” 

The ERC partners are planning for construction of the state of the art facility to be completed by the year 2004. 

On top of hosting the business offices for the nine organizations, the ERC is expected to have a telecommunications center, a library documenting the disabled rights movement, a children’s play center, space to lease, a café and a computer lab that will not only be shared by all of the companies, but will also be open to the community. 

The goal of the ERC is to make sure that all people, no matter their disability will be able to use all of the services of their facility. 

“We’re very excited about this money because it insures that the project will be as innovative as we’ve always dreamed it could be,” said Project Manager Caleb Dardick. “We want the people visiting our site to enjoy a state of the art universal design that accommodates all people. From textured floors to assist the blind to voice operated elevators for those who can’t use buttons, our goal is to have our facility available to everyone.” 

Although most of the fund raising done up to this point has been designated for the planning process, the check from NEC will be the first step towards actually getting the facility constructed. 

“The ERC has been looked at on an international scale as the best designed complex for the disabled community,” said Dmitri Belser of the ERC board of directors, “and now we are moving from the steps of designing the complex down the path of constructing it.” 

The nine organizations of the ERC are Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program, Center for Accessible Technology, Center for Independent Living, Computer Technologies Program, Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Through the Looking Glass, Whirlwind Wheelchair International, and World Institute on Disability.