It’s rare, at least for me, to say that I talked with an iconoclast, but recently I had the good fortune to interview the founder of ABILITY Magazine, Chet Cooper, who truly is just that. One of the nation’s leading advocates in equal employment, education and housing issues for people with disabilities, as shared in Chet’s official bio, he sought to alter society’s attitudes about people with disabilities and in 1991 launched ABILITY Magazine. Now in it’s 25th year, the publication continues to be groundbreaking in both large and small ways for readers and advertisers alike.
First could you share a brief history of ABILITY Magazine and how it has evolved?
“Our concept is to break through that trade publication stereotype and not be considered a trade publication, but a consumer publication that deals with disability and, more importantly human potential to always focus on abilities. From the beginning we’ve focused on stories of celebrities and high profile personalities allowing ABILITY Magazine to easily connect with new readers and broader audiences.
Many first-time readers who initially pick up the magazine for the celebrity stories become more engaged because of personal connections they, someone in their family or friend have to disability. Virtually everyone has a personal story connecting to disability.”
Chet wryly shared, “we’ve done the research and what we found after doing this homework is that we are looking at targeting two demographics – people with disabilities and people without disabilities.”
“Now, more than ever, many companies use ABILITY Magazine for HR diversity recruitment, and we also have ABILITYJobs.com — it was launched in 1995 and has become the largest site to recruit job seekers with disabilities.”
What is a common misconception some potential ABILITY Magazine advertisers may have about the magazine or more broadly about the disability audience and how do you work through that with them?
“Over the past 25 years, we’ve had every Fortune 500 company advertise in the magazine, but the majority of companies come and go and are not consistent in their placements. Many have seen it as the cause of the day, focusing on one diversity segment and then move onto another.
Within an advertiser’s marketing team there may be an individual that has great ideas for advertising and is a champion for disability inclusion and diversity, but that person may leave and then the idea dries up. I’d like to see advertisers be more consistent.
Toyota is one advertiser in ABILITY Magazine that has been consistent, centering their advertising on their inclusive mobility vehicle line and accessories. Nordstrom is another advertiser that has been in ABILITY Magazine and features various models with disabilities.”
Does a marketer’s message change within ABILITY Magazine versus other places advertised?
“We get too many companies that want to place an ad in ABILITY Magazine that includes someone in a wheelchair because of our magazine’s focus, but no matter what is in their ad, because of the context of their placement with us they are already advocating for people with disabilities. We try to explain to them to put the ad that features someone with a disability into their general placement circulation and put the other advertising they’d typically place in general market publications into ours. Why can’t the advertiser’s same ad that’s in ABILITY Magazine be in Forbes and Cosmopolitan? I’d love to see disability inclusive ads everywhere else to help change attitudes.”
Finally, what are some interesting articles or interviews we can look forward to from ABILITY Magazine in 2016?
“We’re doing more internationally focused work, including our recent articles and interviews from China. There also may be opportunities coming up for crowdsourcing some content.
Even 25 years after the American’s With Disabilities Act legislation it’s still a civil rights movement. Disability is the largest minority, and the only minority anyone can join, but it’s very hard to unify the voice. That’s why ABILITY Magazine continues to champion the cause.”
Check out more on ABILITY Magazine on Facebook, Twitter and at http://www.abilitymagazine.com/.