The Ability Center Centennial Year

We began in 1920 with a mission to help children, many with polio and other childhood disabilities of the time, many who had been sheltered away most of their lives, or since becoming disabled. Many had not gone to school - or had been asked not to come once disabled. Most had not received proper health care. We played an important role as part of an innovative movement to help these children get what they needed. We became a “home” for these kids, helping them to heal and live with their disabilities. Because polio and similar “long rehabilitation” disabilities required lengthy stays, we had a 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. We sold our hospital in 1963 to focus on our educational component and the youngest citizens with disabilities.

We became a pre-school and kindergarten for children with disabilities, offering educational support and therapies in a safe and inclusive space until the mid-1970’s, when education laws changed, allowing these kids to go to regular public schools. Again we evolved to meet the needs of Toledo and northwest Ohio, becoming a service agency for people of all ages and disabilities.

In 1989, during the push for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we became a Center for Independent Living, run by and for people with disabilities. Today, we help people of all ages in many ways, including the sharing of information to make lives easier and safer, providing ramps and home modifications for those in need, advocating for better laws and accessible communities, and training assistance dogs to become life partners for individuals and schools who can benefit from such support.

As we begin our second century, we will continue to grow and evolve, addressing the 21st Century needs of the area’s people with disabilities and the communities which serve them.


Help us show what a “Welcoming Community” looks like.

In 2020, The Ability Center will turn 100 years old. From the days of Spanish flu and polio epidemics to today’s efforts to build welcoming homes, schools, and public spaces, we have been serving Toledo and northwest Ohio, helping people living with disabilities and their families to find the answers they need to live, work, and socialize in a fully accessible community.

To help celebrate our century of service, we plan to create a 2020 Centennial calendar, consisting of 12 artistic images, plus a cover. For these art pieces we invite and challenge young artists to create and submit artwork for consideration. These pieces, when finished, need to be able to be scanned or photographed. Most mediums are acceptable.

As we step into our second century, one of our primary goals is to help Toledo and northwest Ohio become “the most accessible, inclusive, and welcoming city and area in the country.”

What does this mean? Well, simply put, it means everyone working together to build a community that supports and works for everyone – including people with disabilities! This means there is access to housing, transportation, employment, health care, social outlets like stores, theaters, parks, churches, etc.

Whatever the difference, everyone should feel welcome, respected, and appreciated for what they bring to the community. Everyone deserves to be accommodated and feel they belong.

  • How might you create an image that represents this type of community?
  • What does a welcoming community look like?
  • What needs to happen for it to become reality?
  • Who would need to be involved? How might your art piece motivate them?
  • What might make a good slogan for such a community?
  • If there were to be a giant mural as part of this project, what might it look like?
  1. If you wish to participate, please register by completing the form below.
  2. Registration and concepts need to be in by: February 1, 2019.
  3. Participants must be enrolled at a school located in the counties of Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Defiance, and Williams.
  4. Artwork must be finished and submitted by May 24, 2019.
  5. NOTE: Before you get too far into your effort, we would appreciate hearing about your concept. We can help you be current with your design; answer questions you may have about disability, about proper terminology.
  6. The Ability Center will judge submissions and announce the artists whose work will appear in the Centennial calendar at the end of July 2019. The “First Place” winner will have his or her artwork displayed on the cover of the calendar and on area billboards.
  7. The Ability Center reserves the right to use submissions in publications, as part of our 2020 celebrations, on billboards, etc. The artist will always be referenced and acknowledged.