historic picture of a boy at AbilityFirst
Historic picture of a teacher and student

Mission and History

At AbilityFirst, our vision is of a society that values each individual and provides the opportunity for all people to lead full and productive lives. For more than 89 years, we have been looking beyond disabilities, focusing on capabilities, and expanding possibilities.

AbilityFirst provides a broad spectrum of services for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, including life skills development, social and recreational activities, job training and employment, camp and housing. More information about the ways in which AbilityFirst is helping children and adults with disabilities to achieve rich and fulfilling lives can be found in our agency brochure and the latest edition of the AbilityFirst annual publication.

Our Beginnings

AbilityFirst was established in 1926 and known as the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California (CCS) for many decades. Lawrence L. Frank and Paul Dietrich, both Rotarians, were two of the original founders of the organization and they continued their loyal support throughout their lives.

Becoming AbilityFirst

When our organization was founded, the name reflected the thinking and norms of the time. The ensuing decades, however, brought dramatic change. We expanded to provide programs for adults and children with disabilities. We also broadened our mission in order to meet the needs of those with developmental disabilities, as well as those with physical disabilities. Development disabilities include autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and epilepsy.

In 2000, the organization adopted the name AbilityFirst to better reflect our mission, our vision for the future, and our commitment to celebrating the unique abilities of every individual.

Ethics Statement:

AbilityFirst is committed to creating an environment where people from different backgrounds and experiences can feel safe and supported in striving to achieve their personal best. As an organization and as individuals, we will comply with both the letter and spirit of applicable laws and regulations, as well as with the company policies and procedures designed to help us maintain our principles and achieve our mission. Employees at all levels throughout the organization are expected to avoid illegal, dishonest, or unethical conduct, as well as any other actions that might reflect unfavorably on either the employee’s personal integrity or that of AbilityFirst. Read our full ethics statement here.