Deadline Now: Disability: From Institutions to Independence
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Deadline Now: Disability: From Institutions to Independence

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dan Wilkins of the Ability Center of Greater Toledo and Barbara Floyd, Director of the Canaday Center at the University of Toledo, discuss the history and evolution of disability.

The Ability Center of Greater Toledo (ACT) is a non-profit Center for Independent Living, serving Northwest Ohio. With a main campus located in Sylvania, Ohio, and two satellite offices in Bryan and Port Clinton, Ohio, ACT serves seven counties: Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Williams and Wood.

ACT provides services for people with disabilities and their families by offering information and referral, advocacy, independent living skills training, peer support and community living.

Born out of a 2009 exhibit by the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, a new book chronicling the history of and contributions to disability in Northwest Ohio is now available through the UToledo Press. Compiled and edited by Barbara Floyd, Director of the Canaday Center, From Institutions to Independence: A History of People with Disabilities in Northwest Ohio takes readers from the asylums of the late 1800′s through the present day Independent Living Movement. Philosophies and movements started right here in Northwest Ohio.

On the web: www.abilitycenter.org
On the web: www.utoledopress.com

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

Jack Kevorkian, the famous, or perhaps infamous, apostle of physician-assisted suicide, was never the disability community’s favorite physician.  Yet he said something once that I’ll never forget.

This was during one of his many trials, and the prosecutor was arguing that one of Kevorkian’s patients was not terminally ill, or terribly suffering, but a disabled person who could have lived a satisfying and rewarding life.

Kevorkian replied: “Every one of us will end up disabled if we live long enough.“ I instantly realized how true that was. I also remembered how members of the disability community were treated, when I was younger, which was, come to think of it, fairly surprising.

Surprising, that is, given that America had been piloted through the nation’s worst depression and most terrible war by a man who is considered one of the nation’s greatest presidents -- and who throughout his time in office totally lacked the use of his legs.

We’ve come a considerable way. Places like the Ability Cetner of Greater Toledo are helping us come even farther. There are as wide a range of disabilities as there are human beings. However, all disabled persons do have one thing in common: They are human beings, who should have the right to live, work, and socialize within as fully an accessible community as possible.

That’s what the Ability Center is dedicated to doing, and they are far from alone. Assistance Dogs of America is doing their part, as is the Autism Society, the Mental Health Center and many other organizations who work with or help support the disabled.

A century ago, a severely deformed, ten-year-old Toledo boy named Alva Bunker had been condemned to a dreary life in an alley on Michigan Street. But thanks to a little help from the business community, and a series of operations, he went on to learn to walk, read, and became a skilled auto mechanic. He also opened this area’s eyes to what even the most severely disabled can achieve.

In the words of Barbara Floyd, Alva Bunker literally changed the world. Last week his memory was honored at a ceremony placing a long-overdue memorial stone on his grave. He deserves to be remembered. And I think the best tribute we could pay to his memory is doing whatever we can to help the Alva Bunkers of our day live as rich and fulfilling a life as all the rest of us.

 

 

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