||Building a World of Inclusion for People with Health Conditions and Disabilities|
About the Founder
Known as the Father of the "Ability Movement"
For centuries, people with disabilities were recognized for their disability—not their ability. In 1990 Chet Cooper became the Father of the Ability Movement when he founded ABILITY Magazine. Understanding the true opportunity to shift global paradigms lied in changing people’s perceptions; Cooper opened a new door in the disability movement when he developed ability-first language, highlighting the “ability” in “disability.” Since then, many well-known and valuable organizations have shifted their title from disability-focused to ability-first language, including "ability" in their titles!
The Social Entrepreneur
A California transplant, Cooper is a social entrepreneur who has been starting and growing businesses since junior high. After many successful ventures, Cooper found himself the publisher of National Lampoon, a position perfect for a man of unceasing wit and a keen eye for detail.
It was in 1990, shortly before the signing of the ADA that he read an article in Business Week proposing a global shift in the employment opportunities for people with disabilities. At the article’s conclusion, the writer solicited input on how to achieve such a transformation. Without having formal experience in disability advocacy, Cooper identified a key ingredient necessary to change was a shift in paradigms. Cooper further suggested this could be accomplished in part by a celebrity-driven publication that would serve as a conduit for disability advocates addressing the range from mental, physical and intellectual disabilities. And with that, Cooper set-out to create the first issue of ABILITY Magazine.
As Editor-in-Chief of ABILITY Magazine, Cooper has interviewed many of the top personalities in Hollywood and politics including President Clinton, Cher, Sally Field, Christopher and Dana Reeve, First Lady Laura Bush, Ray Charles, Mary Tyler Moore and many, many others.
Raising the Bar… and a Roof
In 1995 Cooper founded ABILITY Awareness and served as its volunteer Executive Director for its first ten years until a Director was hired. In that time he sought out practical yet powerful ways to instill change. Under his direction the ABILITY Build program launched with homes being built up and down the East Coast. For founding ABILITY Awareness and the tremendous impact ABILITY Builds have in communities where they’ve been built, Cooper was awarded the Presidential Community Volunteer Award, the nation's highest award for volunteerism, by President Bush during a private White House ceremony in 2005.
Today, Cooper is the President of ABILITY Awareness and working to strategically collaborate with other nonprofits in joint efforts to affect a more dynamic shift in the perceptions held of people with disabilities or health conditions. If he’s not speaking at conferences or helping build an ABILITY House, this true Californian is likely surfing the waves or cruising the coast on his Harley.