Open Google Monday and the homepage featured a drawing of a man in a wheelchair sitting before a crowded lecture hall. That man is Ed Roberts, a pioneer in disability rights. Monday marked what would be his 78th birthday.

Roberts story began when he contracted polio at the age of 14, just a few years before an effective vaccination was produced. After the virus paralyzed him from the neck down, he was confined to a specially made wheelchair. Formerly an active child, Roberts had to spend his nights sleeping in an 800-pound iron lung, a massive device designed to assist with breathing.

Though he fought to continue his education, Roberts was denied his diploma upon graduation because he was unable to take drivers education or physical education. After successfully petitioning the school and receiving his diploma, he went on to become the first student with severe disabilities to enroll in the University of California Berkeley, according to Google’s Doodle blog.

Getting accepted wasn’t easy for Roberts. A university official was hesitant to admit him, telling Roberts, “We’ve tried cripples before and it didn’t work,” according to Smithsonian magazine. And once he was finally enrolled, Roberts had to live and sleep in an empty wing of the campus hospital because his iron lung couldn’t fit in a traditional dorm room.

“I watched Ed as he grew from a sports-loving kid, through bleak days of hopelessness, into self-acceptance of his physical limitations as he learned what was possible for him to accomplish,” said his mother, Zona. 

As a student, Robert led his peers at the university in creating the Physically Disabled Students Program. After graduating with both a bachelor's and master's in political science, he returned to Berkeley to lead the Berkeley Center for Independent Living. In 1976, he was appointed as director of the California Department of Vocal Rehabilitation. In 1963, he cofounded the World Institute on Disability, a nonprofit that works to integrate people with disabilities into communities.

Roberts died in 1995, but his wheelchair remains in the National Museum of American History as a testament to his activism.

“When he came into the room he captured people’s attention,” Joan Leon, another co-founder of the World Institute on Disability, said in her eulogy for Roberts. “He kept that attention by moving his chair slightly – rolling it back and forth, lifting and lowering the foot pedals and raising and releasing the back, even honking the horn or turning on the light.”