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Who We Are

Looking Beyond Disabilities

Focusing on Capabilities

Expanding Possibilities

AbilityFirst™ stands for, and alongside, people with developmental disabilities and their families. We create a welcoming environment where everyone feels they belong and are valued. Our first consideration is always for the well-being of our participants, and — through the mutual trust that we share — each person is supported to achieve his or her personal best.  At AbilityFirst we look beyond disabilities, focus on capabilities and expand possibilities.

                                                                          OUR MISSION

AbilityFirst™ provides a variety of programs designed to help people with disabilities achieve their personal best throughout their lives. We do this by: creating targeted programming to help an individual successfully transition from childhood to adult life.


ELA Center – Date Unknown

Camp Paivika – 1951

In 1926, a group of businessmen from the Los Angeles Rotary Club reached out to help children affected by the pre-vaccine polio epidemic. These visionary men, looking beyond crippling physical disabilities, saw children and capabilities first and sought ways to help these children flourish and thrive.  Out of this seed of compassion and concern, AbilityFirst™—with all the promise of its cornerstone belief in capability—was born.

Originally named the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California, AbilityFirst and its founders were cutting-edge advocates for disability rights.  AbilityFirst went on to pioneer some of the very first community services in California for children with disabilities. Additional highlights include: setting a model standard in accessibility with the design and construction of one of the first fully accessible camps in the nation; opening one of the first vocational training programs in the country for adults with disabilities; being a forerunner in supported employment helping adults with developmental disabilities succeed in community jobs; and sponsoring and helping secure passage of state Senate Bill 309 so  young adults with developmental disabilities can attend after school programs throughout high school.

In 2000, we adopted the name AbilityFirst to better reflect our mission, vision, and commitment to celebrating the unique abilities of every individual.  Today, AbilityFirst is distinguished by: evidence-based services, exceptional leadership and management, longstanding experience and community roots, and outcomes-based program evaluation with measurable results. That tiny seed—looking beyond the disabilities of polio to see children and capabilities first—has grown strong, deep roots.

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