Welcome to The Ability Center. Together, we will work to make our community the most disability friendly in the nation by increasing independence for people with disabilities, discovering true passions, and changing the community’s perception of disability.
Ty Ruddy has been overcoming hurdles since birth. Rather than focusing on his medical history, he prefers that people see his determination.
Ty Ruddy has been overcoming hurdles since birth—and he considers his life richer for it.
A 2022 recipient of a scholarship from The Ability Center Auxiliary, Ty is pursuing degrees in applied mathematics and English at Hillsdale College while considering economics and physics as potential career paths. He graduated from Whiteford High School in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, where he earned academic honors and played football, basketball, and track.
Because of Holt-Oram, Ty must frequently discover ways to complete tasks most people do without thought. But rather than focusing on his medical history, he prefers that people see him as a student, an athlete, and an overcomer.
“I want others to look at my determination and intelligence, not my physical characteristics,” says Ty. “I feel my life exemplifies how perseverance and hard work can function cooperatively with a disability.”
A Perfect Match.
After an automobile accident left Allie Leatherman with a spinal cord injury, she quickly got busy helping others within the SCI community. With Taylor by her side, she has gained the confidence to become more approachable.
“Taylor is the wind beneath my wings. In a way, she is me in dog form.”
Allie is a member of SCI Connect, a group of area individuals impacted by spinal cord injuries. She offers guidance to newly injured individuals and their loved ones by answering questions, addressing concerns, or simply being there to listen. She also serves on an advisory board that oversees the disbursement of a $3 million grant Ohio Cure Advocacy Network secured from the State of Ohio.
“Taylor is the wind beneath my wings,” says Allie, referring to her assistance dog trained by The Ability Center. “In a way, she is me in dog form.”
With Taylor by her side, Allie has gained the confidence to become more approachable. As a result, more of us can experience Allie’s incredible sense of humor.
Allie constantly strives to educate others about SCI. And she works hard to dispel stigmas about people with disabilities.
“Having differences is what makes us the same,” she says.
Top In His Field.
By age 17, Chris Riling had already earned his first Cisco® equipment certification. Today, he holds the networking industry’s highest credential, traveling worldwide to support his customers.
By age 17, Chris Riling had already earned his first Cisco® equipment certification—and a reputation for having outstanding technical skills.
Chris was born with cerebral palsy, which initially caused potential employers to wonder how well he could perform their jobs. Early positions in network administration and engineering gave him additional experience. But what Chris really wanted was to work for Cisco. After applying persistently for two years, he ultimately landed a position at the company.
Today, Chris holds Cisco’s CCIE® certification, the networking industry’s highest credential. As a system architect, he travels worldwide, supporting one of his employer’s top 26 customers. He prides himself on having expertise in both technical and business arenas.
Chris hopes people realize he reached the top of his profession despite his disability—not because of it. He never shies away from talking about his cerebral palsy with those who are curious; indeed, he encourages people to ask questions without worrying they might offend him. And rather than wondering whether he requires assistance, he prefers they consider how he can help them.
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