The Ability Center, Toledo (ACT) has gone through many changes since its founding in 1920. Overtime, the needs and expectations of those with disabilities shifted; now ACT has become an organization that focuses on helping those with disabilities to live independently within their communities.
Tools for Success
ACT achieves their mission with the Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence (ADAI) Program. Service dogs, trained through the ACT facility, work with volunteers invaluable to the process.
“We have foster families that volunteer their time to help train the dogs,” ACT Community Relations Specialist Mallory Tarr said. The dogs are placed with individuals who need help with daily tasks at home, and many become school therapy dogs.
ACT also helps with equipment loans, which can include everything from wheelchairs to portable ramps. “A lot of people just pitch their stuff if they don’t need it anymore,” Tarr said. “They don’t know that there’s a place where they can drop it off.” Donations are welcomed and can be dropped off at the facility, where it will be sanitized and paired with a person who needs it.
The Nursing Home Transition program helps anyone who has been in a nursing home for three months or longer with the transition back to their home. There are times when that person needs certain equipment, modifications to their home, or help getting everyday items they need when they return home. ACT assists with these barriers.
For people who need modifications to their home, the Home Accessibility Program provides assistance. Carpenters on ACT’s staff build ramps, stair grabbers, and other modifications, but volunteers also assist and are a big part of what makes the program so successful.
The mission of ACT is to make the community accessible to people with disabilities, which is often where their advocacy program comes in. “We have a full-time lawyer on staff who deals with advocacy issues on a systemic level,” Tarr said. “If we get 10 to 15 calls reporting a barrier to get into a restaurant, then that’s something worth noting.” The Advocacy Program also helps with transportation and housing discrimination issues.
Life Skills, the newest ACT program, is developed to teach young people with disabilities about independent living and employability. One component is a summer camp where youth ages 13 to 26 stay on the University of Toledo campus and are paired with different job sites according to their interests. Tarr said that “they’re living college dorm life— doing laundry and cleaning their rooms.”
“We never want to look at people with disabilities as an ‘inspiration,” Tarr said. “(P)eople with disabilities… have the same thoughts and dreams, but they have different challenges to get there. We need to make sure that everyone is on the same playing field, as much as possible.”
If you would like to volunteer, make a donation,
or find out about eligibility for these programs,
call 419-885-5733 or visit abilitycenter.org.