Today, AbilitiesUnited begins the celebration of its 50th Anniversary concurrent with the International Day of People with Disabilities, a United Nations sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being. 
Abilities Unitedbegan in 1963 as a small nursery school founded by twelve Palo Alto families for their children with developmental disabilities.  Since then, the agency has continued to be a critical lifeline for families throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.  For years, they have served thousands of children and adults, helping them with their personal development and integrating them into the community.
Lynda Steele, Abilities United’s Executive Director, provides this perspective. “At one point, institutionalization was the only option for children with disabilities. But over the past 50 years, we have developed a wide range of comprehensive life-long services through education, training, and supports that enable those with disabilities to be a part of the community. In creative and positive ways, we have worked hard to eliminate the barriers that prevent individuals from attaining the best life possible.”
The agency will be telling its story of inclusion in a number of events, shows, and webinars with community partners through the year. The campaign’s inaugural event will be an art exhibit hosted at the Microsoft retail store at the Stanford Shopping Center from Monday, December 3 through Friday, December 7. Original works of art from local artists who are participants of the agency will be on exhibit and available for purchase.
According to Michael Solari, Microsoft Community Development Specialist: “At Microsoft, we strive to help people around the world realize their full potential. By hosting an art exhibit with Abilities United, we are able to jointly celebrate the artistic accomplishments of their participants. And since technology has greatly improved the inclusion and contribution of all in our community, the Microsoft team will be hosting a variety of technology classes throughout the week for children and adults of all abilities.”  
Beginning December 3, Abilities United will also launch their “50 Successes/50 Stories” campaign, publishing compelling personal stories to illustrate the accomplishments of people of all abilities over the past 50 years.  Each week, a new story will be distributed through social media as well as posted on the agency web site.  In addition, the agency is asking people throughout the community to join the conversation and submit their stories online. Bob Thomas of Mountain View, who first volunteered for the agency in 1978 when he was 18 years old, collected the 50 individual stories in support of the 50thAnniversary campaign.
Looking to the future, Abilities United will continue their commitment to people with disabilities.  They look forward to the time when allbarriers –both attitudinal and physical–for people with disabilities will truly come down.  
According to Dr. Heidi Feldman, Abilities United Board President, “We are driven to continue our leadership role in full community inclusion and universal contribution – a mission not yet completed – while expanding our capability to serve more children, adults, families, and community partners.  We seek to influence a wider community in our state and nation through training, research, and dissemination of inclusionary services that work. Please join us in this mission.”
Submitted by  Wendy Kuehnl, Abilities United Marketing Director