It’s Our Story

It’s Our Story National Oral History

It’s Our Story National Oral History


Contact Person(s) and Details Dr. Victor Pineda
President, World Enabled

Scott Cooper
Project Affiliate

Phone: +1 (202) 340-2575

Project It’s Our Story (IOS)
Implementing Partners The Pineda Foundation For Youth/World
Location United States of America
Date of Project 2005-2010
Primary Objective To create a fully accessible, online database of the history of persons with disabilities that will serve to raise public awareness and improve societal attitudes and norms towards persons with disabilities and empower persons with disabilities to utilize their capacity to their full potential and enjoyment.
Target Population Persons with disabilities, Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs), media organizations, concerned government agencies and the society at large.


Facts: The United States of America

  • People with disabilities constitute the nation's largest minority group, and the only group any individual can become a member of at any point in time.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Americans with disabilities increased 25 percent, outpacing any other subgroup of the U.S. population.
  • Approximately 54 million Americans have at least one disability, making them the largest minority group in the nation. As the baby boomer population ages and more veterans return from war, this number will double in the next 20 years.
  • Of the 69.6 million families in the United States, more than 20 million have at least one family member with a disability.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, workers with disabilities are rated consistently as average or above average in performance, quality and quantity of work, flexibility, and attendance.
  • Over 65 percent of working-age adults with disabilities are unemployed. Of these working adults, nearly one third earn an income below the poverty level.
  • People with disabilities are nearly twice as likely as people without disabilities to have an annual household income of $15,000 or less.
  • Globally, people with disabilities represent an emerging market on par with the size of China.
  • Notwithstanding the strides made in disability rights in the past 25 years, the majority of people with disabilities are poor, under-employed and under-educated due largely to unequal opportunities.

The Project

It’s Our Story ("IOS") is a mixed-media, digital history archive containing the most comprehensive collection of video, photos and documents uncovering the power, pride, and personal struggle of living with a disability in America. The archive is a testament to freedom, autonomy, and independence and has united grassroots advocates, scholars, educators and civic leaders and from every state of the Union to celebrate the personal and collective struggles for justice and civil rights.

IOS started as a father (Scott Cooper) - son (Eric Clow) media project on Ed Roberts, often referred to as “the Father of Disability Rights.” The project allowed both to come to terms with their own disabilities and, in the process, transformed their views on the world. The humble history project eventually developed into the most ambitious and comprehensive video oral history project in the United States. During the past seven years, Scott Cooper has driven over 100,000 miles collecting the personal testimonies of over 1,100 individuals with disabilities. Since its inception in 2005, more than 2,000 people across 110 cities have contributed over 43,000 volunteer hours to this national venture. Since 2006, these efforts have been supported through the technical assistance and fiscal sponsorship of World Enabled / Pineda Foundation for youth (formerly The Victor Pineda Foundation) and about 50 small donations and grants. The initiative now invites national organizations to help strengthen institutional support to preserve and disseminate this national resource.

IOS is a tribute to and an extension of the seminal work of late Justin Dart, Jr. who collected over 5,000 written testimonies from persons with disabilities from every state between 1988 to 1990. As a result of his efforts, and the help of thousands of disability advocates and volunteers, Dart paved the way for the enactment of landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) granting people with disabilities the rights and privileges enjoyed by all Americans. The ADA is a culmination of more than two decades of law reform efforts and extraordinary ups and downs surmounted by disability advocates and Americans with disabilities in general. Yet, a new generation is currently graduating college without knowing this remarkable historical account of the American disability movement.

Latest reports indicate that 56.7 million Americans had a disability in 2010, an increase of 2.2 million since 2005. Many face stigma, discrimination, and social exclusion on a daily basis. However, the advent of social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) and social media (YouTube) has stimulated new action and inspired disability rights and advocacy campaigns around the country and across the world. IOS has successfully recruited over 1,000 leaders, scholars and grassroots advocates to save their personal testimonies for posterity. These voices will help shape better understanding of American history and in the process share the lessons of community organizing, advocacy and leadership with a new generation. The project has been affectionately dubbed “Independent Living 2.0.”



  • Young people with disabilities empowered with knowledge.
  • IOS internships and workshops (sponsored and implemented thorough Pineda Foundation grants) have been successful in providing youth with disabilities with additional tools, skills and opportunities to change their lives.


  • More collaborative partnerships needed from concerned organizations, donors and government agencies

Lessons Learned

This groundbreaking online database will serve as our nation's single most significant collection of video-recorded primary source records of the disability experience enhanced by a continuous stream of photographs, documents, and insights. These primary sources will promote a deeper understanding of the progress that we have made since the birth of the disability civil rights movement dating back to the 1960’s and 70’s and the abilities of persons with disabilities to thrive beyond lowered expectations while highlighting the challenges of the future.

The success of IOS depends on creating a sustainable National Disability History Coalition (“NDHC”). IOS can, in turn, stimulate new partnerships across research institutions, employment development agencies, and disability organizations that have a stake in preserving the history of the disability rights movement. Additional efforts to procure research and assistive technology (ICT) development grants can be initiated. Developing a new high-school curriculum on disability history can further stimulate and strengthen the national coalition.

Help Create A World Enabled

World Enabled started with a vision of empowering youth challenged by stigma, prejudice and abuse and give them a chance to realize their potential. Thanks to supporters like you, the girls, boys, women and men that benefit from our research and educational programs are making that vision a reality.