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The Story Behind the Billboards

By: Beth Collins

Toledo skyline from the high level bridge at dawn.

What does it mean to live in a disability-friendly community? It means that community has decided that it is possible for all people to get their needs met—regardless of their abilities; and it’s a commitment to use resources to create a community that works for everyone. What would it take for a community to do that? To be that? The Ability Center of Greater Toledo has launched a campaign to find out (Disability Dialog).

What would it take for Toledo to become the most disability-friendly community in the United States?
Ask anyone in the disability community and you will hear a three-word answer—a disability-friendly community has to be inclusive, affordable, and accessible for its citizens with disabilities. And those three words have to be applied to everything. Do we have enough accessible and affordable housing in desirable areas? Does our transportation system support our citizens? Are our schools inclusive and able to serve students of all abilities? Are our community’s facilities accessible so that everyone can enjoy what Toledo has to offer? In the areas where we fall short, what will it take to change?

Where do we start?
Toledo has every resource needed to address the major barriers that keep people with disabilities from leading full, independent lives. Systemic changes are needed, but they will only be sustainable when society changes the way we see—ourselves and each other. So, the campaign for a disability-friendly community starts with an invitation to join conversations intended to inspire just that. Join us in the disabilitydialog forum, listen to a podcast, come to a scheduled community conversation, or start one of your own. Here are a few of the topics we’re going to explore:

Disabled by Society
Disabled by society suggests that people are not disabled by their impairments or differences, they are disabled by barriers such as accessibility and society’s assumptions and perceptions. How can we as a society, begin to see a person separate from a perceived limitation?

My Needs Aren’t Special, They’re Human
We all require the same basic things: schools, workplaces and communities that are inclusive of the diversity of human minds and bodies. What if every person, abled or disabled, was supported in their need to be happy, healthy, and successful in whatever way they defined for themselves? Those needs wouldn’t be special then—individual sure, tailored to each person definitely, but not special. What if we didn’t have to label someone’s needs as special, because their needs were seen as valuable, as human?

The Only Minority You Could Join at Any Time
People with disabilities constitute our nation’s largest minority group, which is simultaneously the most inclusive and the most diverse. Everyone is represented: of all genders, all ages, all religions, all socioeconomic levels and all ethnic backgrounds. The disability community is the only minority group that anyone can join at any time, and due to accidents and old age eventually do.

We all Benefit from Better
Every community is challenged to create affordable and accessible resources for all its citizens. The barriers to living a full, independent life for people with disabilities are not different from anyone else. When we create solutions for them, we create solutions for everyone.

The 65+

Population in the U.S. is predicted to grow by roughly 90% between 2010 and 2040

Hamilton Lombard, Demographics Researcher UVA

People with disabilities are the largest minority group any person could join at any time