THINK

DIFFERENTLY

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.

Unmatched Resolve.

Ty Ruddy has been overcoming hurdles since birth. Rather than focusing on his medical history, he prefers that people see his determination.

Read more about Ty.

Ty Ruddy has been overcoming hurdles since birth—and he considers his life richer for it.

A combination of heart defects associated with Holt-Oram syndrome led to multiple cardiac surgeries before his third birthday, cost him his left thumb, and has often meant working harder to keep pace with others. But Ty credits those challenges for inspiring an unmatched personal resolve and strong work ethic.

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.”

We help people achieve their visions for life.

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.

Read more about Allie and Taylor.

“Taylor is the wind beneath my wings. In a way, she is me in dog form.”

—Allie Leatherman
After an automobile accident in 2014 left Allie Leatherman with a spinal cord injury, she spent a short amount of time coming to grips with her new situation. But then she got busy helping—and advocating for—others within the spinal cord injury (SCI) community.

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.

Offerings

COMMUNITY LIVING

Our programs support people with disabilities to live independently in the community of their choosing. Programs include consumer engagement, assistive technology, and equipment loan.

ADVOCACY

Advocacy staff works at local, state, and federal levels to promote positive change for people with disabilities. Impact on a national scale is produced from efforts within our key focus areas.

ASSISTANCE DOGS

The assistance dogs program provides the training and placement of service and therapy dogs to assist individuals with disabilities.

HOME ACCESSIBILITY

Home modification projects are completed to ensure safety in the home. We strive to keep people independent and thriving in their communities.

YOUTH AND TRANSITION SERVICES

Services are offered to youth and their families to support independent living goals through best practices and partnerships with schools, service agencies, and community organizations.

INFORMATION AND REFERRAL

Information and Referral is an essential part of The Ability Center programming. What we do as an agency involves sharing information and answering questions to help people find the information they are searching for.

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.

Read more about Chris.

By age 17, Chris Riling had already earned his first Cisco® equipment certification—and a reputation for having outstanding technical skills.

When he was just a high school senior, a software contractor sought his help completing a complicated project for the City of Toledo Department of Public Utilities. That secured his standing as an IT prodigy.

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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Be the reason someone with a disability lives a more independent life by teaching basic obedience, manners, and foundational skills to our assistance dogs in training.

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