Chet Cooper hosting United Nations panel on assistive technology during the CRPD
Chet Cooper hosting United Nations panel on assistive technology during the CRPD. Invited guests included Canon, Hackaday, Sesame and Orcam.

Chet Cooper

For more than 30 years, Chet Cooper has been one of the leading advocates for employment, awareness building and housing for people with disabilities (PWDs). He saw the need to break down the myths and stereotypes associated with disabilities, focusing on three major areas that needed change; social attitude, resources, and awareness.

In seeking to alter society’s attitudes about PWDs, he launched ABILITY Magazine in 1990, at the dawn of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The publication quickly became an award-winning magazine and was selected by Time-Warner for distribution. Simultaneously, Cooper created a specialized career system for job seekers with disabilities so companies could find this untapped talent. In 1995, this system converted to the first employment website for PWD’s, called Since it's inception it has helped hundreds of thousands PWDs connect with thousands of employers.

Cooper also co-founded ABILITY Corps --  dedicated to enhance volunteer opportunities for PWD’s showcasing employability and creating partnerships with NGO's around the world.

Since publishing ABILITY Magazine, Cooper strove to redefine disability into ability. Using the same strategy Ad Agencies use to shift public perception of a product, he created a celebrity driven publication. Featured interviews consisted of film and TV celebrities, business leaders, sports figures, Presidents, First Ladies and more.

Chet Cooper speaking with Kirk Douglas, Christopher Reeve and Montel Williams
Chet Cooper speaking with Kirk Douglas, Christopher Reeve and Montel Williams

From diabetes to spinal cord injury and human interest interviews to CEO profiles, ABILITY Magazine continues to cover the latest on health, assistive technology, employment, sports, travel, universal design, mental health and much more. Writers include MDs, PhDs, JDs, best-selling authors, U.S. Senators and advocates. By using high profile people's stories about their own involvement with disabilities, Cooper brings greater attention to the issues —showing disability is part of the fabric in all our lives.

Following his vision, Cooper embraced the idea of recruiting qualified people with disabilities to produce the publication, modeling a truly inclusive work environment. Through the years, over 90 percent of the people involved with ABILITY Magazine have had one or more disabilities, including bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, blindness, attention deficit disorder, fibromyalgia, deafness or hearing loss, social anxiety disorder, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, immune conditions, dyslexia and many others.

Additionally, ABILITY Magazine has partnered with organizations like Department of Labor’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network, Job Accommodation Network, Department of Veterans Affairs and others aimed to influence greater employment for individuals with disabilities.

Chet Cooper with President Bill Clinton, Senator Tom Harkin, Presiedent George W. Bush
Chet Cooper with President Bill Clinton, Senator Tom Harkin wrote for ABILITY Magazine for 14 years, President George W. Bush presenting Cooper the Presidential Volunteer Award.

Cooper continued to hear from companies that they would welcome the opportunity to hire PWDs, but they didn't know where to go. In response, he built what was then called, Job Opportunity Business Network (JOBS). This became the first career site for PWDs on the web and precursor to Job Access/abilityJOBS.

The goal of this site has always been to enable people with disabilities to enhance their professional lives by providing a dedicated system for finding employment. abilityJOBS is not only the first website of its kind, but also the largest averaging over one hundred thousand registered job seekers with disabilities, from entry level candidates to PhD's.

Also in 1995, Cooper furthered his vision for a changing society through showcasing the abilities of PWDs. Cooper convinced Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, to create a partnership and develop the ABILITY House project, a universally designed home built for and by PWDs. The first home was built in 1999 in Birmingham, AL, where 250 volunteers with disabilities built a home for a Vietnam Veteran with a disability in a 7 day blitz build. Cooper rallied companies, non-profits and people like Senator Harkin, Senator Dole, Christopher and Dana Reeve to support the ABILITY House project and homes were built around the country. Cooper received the President's Community Volunteer Award presented by President George W. Bush for his work creating the ABILITY House program.

Senator Harris Wofford, Chet Cooper, Millard Fullard founder of Habitat for Humanity
Senator Harris Wofford, Chet Cooper and Millard Fuller founder of Habitat for Humanity

Cooper has been keynote speaker at a variety of events dating back to the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities National Conference and to the National Community Service Conference, which was held in conjunction with the Points of Light Foundation. He has lead panel discussions and presentations from the United Nations Conference for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to the Assistive Technology Industry Association and the M-Enabling Summits to name a few. His speaking engagements throughout the world include Switzerland, China (Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong), Israel, England, Abu Dhabi, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Armenia, Qatar and Scotland.

Chet Cooper speaking at Cern during Think Quest, speaking at the Intergation Art Exhibition
As a Public Speaker, Chet Cooper has talked around the world. Cooper speaking at Cern, Switzerland during the Think Quest — speaking at the Intergation Art Exhibition in Wuhan China.

Cooper’s latest works include the ABILITY Job Fair an accessible career fair platform to increase employment opportunities for people with PWDs. ABILITY Job Fair is a one of kind online recruitment experience that breaks communication barriers by offering the first face-to-face video recruiter-job seeker interface including sign language interpreters when needed, real time captioning, as well as text communications. And abilityEntertainment—connecting actors/performers with disABILITIES to the entertainment industry.

Mr. Cooper has a long history of dedication to his community. He has worked with at-risk students to educate and empower them on such issues as substance abuse and self-esteem. Mr. Cooper completed an undergraduate degree in biology at California Poly Tech and attended law school at Western State University. He has explored entrepreneurial opportunities in a variety of different fields, the most unique being his tenure as publisher of National Lampoon. His rich background of experiences has provided the foundation for his ability to think beyond the proverbial ‘box.’

Cooper has ADHD, and dyslexia; he continues to be a leading advocate of disability issues, innovator in accessibility and proponent of equal employment.

Chet Cooper receiving Habitat for Humanity Award for ABILITY House: Smart Home. Built for Derrick Daniels and technology sponsored by HP
Chet Cooper receiving a Habitat for Humanity Award for the ABILITY House (2nd built in Birmingham, AL). Cooper brought HP in to build a smart home for Derrick Daniels.