The Story Behind the Advocate

About Keith & Ability Together

Ability Together's Roots

Keith never expected that he would become a public speaker. As someone who was mocked for his speech growing up, he reluctantly accepted an opportunity to speak to educators, and later parents, caretakers, and eventually nursing students. It was while speaking to nursing students that he found his passion. Keith knew that his new calling in life was to share his insights into the unique communication needs of people with disabilities with those working in the healthcare community. 

Why is this so important?

During a Q&A session in a room full of special needs educators Keith was asked, “how do you talk to a deaf person?” He is sure his chin hit the ground. Had special education teachers never learned this in all of their training? His audience of future nurses had never had this topic covered in their courses, either. 

The simple fact is that people with disabilities sometimes have unique communication needs that are often overlooked. It has become Keith’s mission to spread awareness of the inequity that exists in the healthcare community. 

At Ability Together, our vision is a society where disability is normalized and all people feel like they belong.

Will you join our mission?

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keith's Story

B&W photo of Keith as a child, resting his head on his hands and grinning.Born in Los Angeles, Keith was diagnosed with mild Cerebral Palsy (CP), which was compounded with a moderate to severe hearing loss. Doctors told Keith’s mother that given the circumstances, she shouldn’t expect him to ever speak or walk, let alone drive or even graduate from high school. Instead of relenting, she became Keith’s biggest supporter and advocate, building a network that helped him prove the doctors wrong. 

His mother convinced him that he was fully capable of thriving in this world — and he certainly wasn’t quiet about sharing that fact with others. Time and time again, she told him to speak up — when you crack the door of opportunity open, the next person to come along will crack it open a little more, and eventually that door is going to be wide open for everyone in your shoes to walk through. Keith took this thought with him as he molded himself into a vocal advocate for the deaf and disabled communities.  

Keith standing in front of his landscaping business signWith a laundry list of medical conditions, including a learning disability, education did not come easy for Keith. However, in spite of his doctor’s warning, he graduated from high school, attended college and trade school, and became a licensed landscape contractor and designer. He owned and operated a landscaping business that employed dozens of people for over 17 years before falling into his role as a speaker and advocate. 

Keith stands out as a remarkable example of what can be achieved when you encounter and overcome obstacles in your life.

As an advocate, he has served in many capacities. Keith has worked with both children and adults with disabilities as a camp counselor, an Assistant Coach for wheelchair basketball at a Santa Rosa Junior College, and as vice chairman of the California Committee for the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP).

Keith pushes himself to enjoy the fullness of life. He enjoys snow skiing, sailing, mountain biking, paddle boarding, and backpacking. Known by friends as “Cowboy Keith,” he loves country music and two-step dancing. Never a dull moment with Cowboy Keith!

Keith's Life

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At Ability Together, we work to make change happen through education and awareness. Please use this free resource to help you in your goal to improve accessibility through communication. 

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