Advocacy Program

We conduct policy analysis to ensure the rights of people with disabilities to live in an inclusive community of their choosing. Our efforts produce impacts on a national scale within our key focus areas.

The Advocate.

Nathan Turner knows firsthand the challenges of navigating the benefits system while working to make a living. So he advocates on behalf of the entire disability community.

Read more about Nate.

“This work is personal for me,” says Nate, who faced losing his eligibility for needed public benefits once he began working.

Born with advanced cerebral palsy, Nathan Turner has considerable personal experience dealing with Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and other public benefits. He understands the challenges in navigating those systems’ complex eligibility requirements—especially while actively pursuing a career. That’s why he devotes much of his time to advocating for justice, accessibility, and equal rights in the disability community.

Nate knows that many employers view individuals with disabilities as incapable of competing in the job market. Then, when they secure jobs, some are expected to forgo the critical public benefits that enable them to work. But unlike so-called welfare-to-work programs intended to lessen public assistance, the need for disability benefits does not end when someone becomes employed.

“My experience has resulted in a commitment to social justice, human rights, and strengthening community inclusion, especially as they relate to the Black, Indigenous, and Other People of Color (BIPOC) and disability communities.”

Nate is deeply involved in advocacy within the developmental disability system and was the first person to serve on the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities eligible for services. He is also involved with the Ohio Tech Ambassador Network, advocating for supportive technologies that enhance independence.

When he’s not advocating for higher levels of self-determination in the disability community, Nate works as a Senior Web Quality Rater for Lionbridge Global Support Services. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from Wright State University and serves on several area boards.

Health Care
Public Access

Our staff assists private and public partners in their efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability rights legislation. Self-advocacy materials and resources on ADA compliance are available for download below.

Transit Needs Survey

From July through November 2015, The Ability Center promoted a transportation-needs assessment aimed at those who use public transport in northwest Ohio to give feedback on how public transportation affects their quality of life. In short, how easily they can get around. The survey aimed to understand who uses public transit, what problems they experience, and where they want to go.

Passenger Rail Survey Report

From April to the end of June of 2023, The Ability Center of Greater Toledo conducted a study to determine the need for more passenger rail connections throughout NW Ohio. The goal of the survey was to investigate the public’s interest in having a passenger rail system that connects to more regions of NW Ohio, as well as to analyze the benefits of greater passenger rail connections for Ohioans with disabilities.

ACT, Toledo Fair Housing Center, and Disability Rights Ohio file joint Amicus Brief on Reasonable Accommodation issues

The Ability Center, Toledo Fair Housing Center, and Disability Rights Ohio filed a joint Amicus Brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals when the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority ignored a woman’s request for a reasonable accommodation. The woman has a physical disability that makes it difficult for her to move up and down steps. When her two-story apartment became too difficult for her to live in, she provided a doctor’s note to LMHA asking that she be able to move her Section 8 Voucher to a one-level unit. Rather than grant her permission to proceed, LMHA did not respond to her request.

At trial, the jury decided against her when the judge failed to inform them that an unreasonable delay in granting a reasonable accommodation can constitute a denial of that accommodation. The Ability Center, Toledo Fair Housing Center, and DRO disagree with the Court’s failure to instruct the jury on that law issue and have filed an Amicus Brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals asking the Sixth Circuit to remand the case.

The Ability Center OFHA Public Comments – May 28th

Submitted public comment to The Ohio Finance Housing Agency regarding increasing the supply of accessible housing and establishing people with disabilities and their needs in the “Equity” priority of the plan.

The Ability Center ACAA Public Comments – May 13th

Submitted public comment to the Department of Transportation regarding proposed rulemaking to improve the Air Carrier Access Act for passengers with disabilities.

The Ability Center Applauds DOJ’s Accessibility Standards Update – April 12th

Latest rule ensuring accessibility for web content and mobile apps, with a focus on state and local government platforms.

The Ability Center FRA Comments – March 4th

Submitted public comment to the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) regarding their proposed long-distance corridor that would connect Detroit to New Orleans, and effectively thereby connect Toledo to Columbus via passenger rail.

The Ability Center HHS Comments

RE: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities

Nondiscrimination on the basis of disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Entities. Issued by the U.S Justice Department – Oct. 3, 2023

The Department of Justice (“Department”) is proposing to revise the regulation implementing title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in order to establish specific requirements, including the adoption of specific technical standards, for making accessible the services, programs, and activities offered by State and local Government entities to the public through the web and mobile apps.

Home and community-based Medicaid waiver program provider and direct care worker relationships. – July 28

Ohio Department of Medicaid asked for public comment on a new proposed rule: 5160-44-32 Home and community-based Medicaid waiver program provider and direct care worker relationships. The new proposed rule would limit the ability of parents, spouses, and other family members to receive payment for extraordinary care that they provide for their relatives with disabilities. Parents, spouses, and other family members should be paid in the same manner that direct care workers employed by agencies are paid.

HUD Section 504 Public Comment – July 24, 2023

HUD is updating their Section 504 regulations and has asked for public comments that the Department can reference to improve the administration of its federally assisted and federally conducted programs to ensure its own compliance with Section 504.

MyCare Conversion Charter Public Comment – April 20, 2023

Submitted public comment in collaboration with The Ohio Olmstead Task Force to recommend necessary changes in language and rules concerning criminal records checks for direct care providers in nursing homes and other facilities.

Make Your Voice Heard RFI-The Ability Center Public Comment – Nov. 4, 2022

Submitted to federal agency Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to increase healthcare equity, programs, and services for people with disabilities

Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds – January 18, 2022

We encourage the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice to reevaluate the necessity of the Public Charge Rule.

Make Your Voice Heard RFI-The Ability Center Public Comment – Nov. 4, 2022
Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds – January 18, 2022

We encourage the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice to reevaluate the necessity of the Public Charge Rule.

2021 Design and Architectural Standards – August 13, 2021

We recommend that Universal Design be encouraged for all housing units.

Methods and Leading Practices for Advancing Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through Government

Submitted to the federal agency Office of Management and Budget responding to Equity concerns.

Medical equipment, supplies, and vehicle modifications – March 16, 2020

Comments—and results of previous comments—are made to ensure that changes to laws regarding any modifications of medical equipment, supplies, and vehicles be viewed more clearly to effectively and efficiently serve the interests of the consumers.

The Community Reinvestment Act – March 9, 2020

Reasons for opposition of proposed changes to CRA based on how it would severely negatively impact the disabled community, low-income households, and small businesses.

The Disparate Impact Rules of the Fair Housing Act – October 18, 2019

Letter to Secretary Carson stating that the proposed changes to the FHA would unintentionally subject people with disabilities to discrimination and how these changes would limit access to everyday activities.

ACT Provides Input to 2016 Ohio Consolidated Plan – September 30, 2015

Find ways to provide reasonable accommodations focusing on Land Use and Zoning.

Implementing a 1915i Program for Adults with Severe and Persistant Mental Illness in Ohio – June 5, 2015

Urging Medicaid Program for mentally ill people and including them in Home and Community Based Services for all income levels and push for integration and inclusion.

Letter to National Church Residences Regarding Reasonable Accommodations, May 21, 2015

Suggestions made for the update and change of the National Church Residences policy regarding accommodations.

Comments on Ohio Housing Finance Agency Qualified Allocation Plan – April 28, 2015

Addresses increasing need for affordable accessible housing in all demographic areas, and need for desegregation and inclusion of those with disabilities.

Comments on the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Reasonable Accommodation Procedures, February 25, 2015

Discusses major changes that need to be done on the LMHA’s Reasonable Accommodation Verification Form to allow the process to go smoother and in a more disability-friendly manner that includes them wholesomely.

Comments on Ohio’s Draft Plan to Comply with the New Federal Home and Community Based Services Requirements – January 23, 2015

Talks about ways to ensure clarity of vocabulary used in waivers between institutions and communities and ways to encourage funding for HCBS, instead of mandating institutions the state should leave that decision up to the individual.

Comments on the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council Of Government’s Public Involvement Policy – November 7, 2014

Ways for TMACOG to educate general public of events and how they impact communities, how TMACOG should include disabled people in its target market, and how TMACOG can better serve Toledo and surrounding residents.

Ability Center Testimony – (HB 391)

Reasons to update and improve Ohio’s current accessible parking law.

Interested Party Testimony for House Bill 33 (Katie Hunt Thomas)

“There are three issues that I want to bring to your attention today. First, the language establishing a formal, supported-decision making agreement in the House version of HB33; second, increasing wages for the Direct Care Workforce; and third, establishing Direct Care Workforce Commission that can make recommendations on how to solve the current direct care crisis.”

Interested Party Testimony for House Bill 33 (Brittanie Maddox)

“Section 5123.68 to 5123.685 of HB33 creates a statue to formalize Supportive Decision-Making. This is a way for people with disabilies to receive assistance in some of their decisions without having to give up their legal rights.”

Letter of Support for SB202

Dear Chairman Manning, Vice Chair McColley, Ranking Member Thomas, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee…

United States Senate Special Committee on Aging

Chairman Casey, Ranking Member Tim Scott, and members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, thank you for the opportunity to provide proponent testimony on S.2210 Better Care Better Jobs Act.

Ability Center Testimony – (HB 281)

The Enact Mental Health and Disability Terminology Act – which is a bill that would modify current language in the Ohio Revised Code that is discriminatory, derogatory, outdated, or ableist in reference to disability.

Ability Center Testimony – (HB 74)

Reasons for more funding and expansion of TARTA because of the negative effect it would have on the independence of people with disabilities.

HB 31 Proponent Testimony Ability Center

Proposed changes for ways to make places easier to access for people with disabilities within their community by ways of parking, more enforcement and volunteers, ticketing/fining those who don’t comply.

SB 17 Opponent Testimony Ability Center

Ways the proposed SB 17 would have a severe and negative impact on Ohioans with disabilities who rely on assistance.

Ohio Advocacy Organizations HCBS Sign-on Letter to Ohio Legislator

Ways Ohio legislators can help improve HCBS and help wrongly institutionalized individuals get back to HCBS.

HB 498 Written Testimony – June 11, 2020

Expresses gratitude and ways the HB 498 would have a positive impact on people with disabilities and the aging community through changes to building codes by making them more accessible.

Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee – May 14, 2015

Reasons for support of an increase in waiver funding for people with disabilities to live in HCBS rather than in an institution on the basis of many developmentally disabled people do NOT have cognitive impairment.

ADA Notification Hearing – May 19, 2016

Refers to holding businesses accountable for not complying with ADA laws, treat ADA laws like any other laws, and law enforcement needs speed up the process so people with disabilities are not subject to any discrimination.

ADA Transition Plan – June 30, 2016

Ways the City of Toledo needs to improve their policies to make lives of people with disabilities easier including Grievance Procedure, Requests for Accommodations, communication with people with disabilities, parks, trails, and sports facilities, and training.

Official Testimony on HB23

Testimony (written on HB23: proposed fy 24-25 transportation budget) to ask the transportation committee to maintain the existing funding for transportation & to use funding from the Biden Administration to modernize transportation systems in Ohio.

Ability Center Olmstead Fact Sheet

Facts and statistics based on the Olmstead Decision and how it helps Ohioans with disabilities, what needs to be changed, and why inclusion is so important to society.

Ability Center Olmstead White Paper

A very thorough look at the history of disabilities in America and the historical figures that helped shape the federal implementation and fulfill the promise of Olmstead.

Access Network

Staff assist private and public partners in their efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability rights legislation. Self-advocacy materials and resources on ADA compliance are available for download on our website. Visit our ADA Coordinator Resource Library here.

  • ADA Coordinator email/blog
  • ADA Seminar
  • Promoting laws with other advocacy groups and organizations

Direct Care Crisis

Ohio is in the midst of a Direct Care Crisis. Roughly 4,000 aging Ohioans and Ohioans with disabilities are currently going without needed personal care services. Direct Care workers are essential to ensuring that Ohioans with disabilities are able to live and work independently. We must take action to prevent unnecessary institutionalization.

Community Organizing

The advocacy team works with people with disabilities on grassroots level to influence social change. The Ability Center engages with other disability groups to improve public policy.

Community Advocates for Transportation Rights (CATR) is a small group of concerned individuals with disabilities working to ensure access to transportation in Toledo and the surrounding communities. CATR is a Toledo-based group that welcomes the participation of anyone interested in advocating to strengthen our transportation network in northwest Ohio.

Local Grassroots Organizations

SALUTEPeople FirstSCI Connect

Self-Advocacy 101

Become a better advocate by watching these short clips designed to walk you through common self-advocacy practices.

Contact us for one-on-one advocacy support.

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