Centennial Celebration September 2021

Hall of Fame


We began in 1920 with a mission to help children. Many of the children were not welcomed in mainstream schools. Most also had not received proper health care. We played an important role as part of an innovative movement to help children get what they needed. Our agency became a home for these kids, supporting and encouraging them to remove social barriers caused by their disability. Because polio and similar disabilities required lengthy stays, we housed school in our hospital. We served thousands of young people in our hospitals until the late 1950’s, when the Salk Polio vaccine greatly impacted our need. Our hospital closed in 1963 and our focus on shifted to education.

Our organization transformed into a preschool and kindergarten for children with disabilities, offering an inclusive education until the mid-1970’s At this time, schools began welcoming students off all abilities in mainstream schools. In response to this change, we evolved into a service agency for people of all ages and disabilities. During the push for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we became a Center for Independent Living, and changed to our current name, The Ability Center.

Today, we empower people of all ages and all abilities through core services focused on consumer choice and increased independence. As we begin our second century, we continue to grow and develop, addressing the needs of the 21st Century. We invite local businesses leaders and community members to engage with us and help us get closer to our goal of becoming the most disability-friendly community in the country.

1920 - 1960

A Rotary Dream

For 100 years, The Ability Center’s mission has been to support people with disabilities. Programs have adapted to remove current barriers to independent living for people with disabilities in northwest Ohio.


The Toledo Society for Crippled Children is established by The Rotary Club to raise funds to build a hospital and rehabilitation facility for children with polio.


A portion of a bequest from the Edward Drummond Libbey estate is used to modify the “Old Ladies Home” on Central and Collingwood to create the first hospital and convalescent home for children with disabilities. It serves as a temporary space as the Society raises funds for a permanent facility.


The Opportunity Home opens thanks to the balance of the gift from the Edward Drummond Libbey estate and strong community support. The hospital is located in what is now Lake Erie Academy on Central Avenue.

1937 - 1960

We serve the area as a hospital, which includes a school for children recovering from polio, until the arrival of the Salk vaccine in the mid-1950s.


1960 - 1990

Transforming with the Times

From 1960-1990, dedicated disability rights activists were successful in establishing federal laws to ensure that people with disabilities had the right to an education and to community inclusion.


A dedicated shift to education transforms the facility into Opportunity Kindergarten, a school for children with disabilities. The school is housed in the Libbey House in the Old West End.


Public school policy legislation welcomes students of all abilities into mainstream schools. The Ability Center evolves again and begins serving adults with disabilities as well as children. The name changes to Toledo Society for the Handicapped.


The movement to create a nationwide network of independent living centers migrates to northwest Ohio. The Board of Trustees changes our mission to become a Center for Independent Living, one of over 500 across the country.


After decades of campaigning, the Americans with Disabilities Act is passed. The Toledo Society for the Handicapped becomes The Ability Center of Greater Toledo.


1990 - 2019

Independent Living Movement

With the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act and a national network of Centers for Independent Living, the focus of The Ability Center moves towards providing core services of advocacy, information and referral, independent living skills training, peer supportand mentoring, and transition.

1990 - 2019

The Ability Center serves seven counties via its main office in Sylvania, OH, and a satellite office in Bryan, OH. Programming aims to create greater independence and stronger connection to the community.

Support and information are provided to community organizations and businesses to offer inclusive programs and services to all citizens.



The Next Century of Service

Through the Disability Dialog campaign we pose the question, “What would it take to make our community the most disability friendly in the country?”

Thoughtful discussions are organized by different community groups in response to our inquiry.


Innovative initiatives are unveiled to highlight our rich history of service, evolution as an agency, and role in creating the most disability-friendly community in the country.