Help Us Change Disabilities into Abilities
Ottawa Friendship House was conceived out of a mother's love for a son born with a developmental disability. In the 1950s, when such individuals were stigmatized and dismissed, and segregated from society in large institutions, Jane McCormick held an unwavering belief in her son's potential, yet understood no programs existed that would acknowledge, much less nurture, her son's capabilities. She thus worked tirelessly to support Bob's education, growth, and independence, first alone and later with like-minded families who sought fulfilled and self-actualized lives for their loved ones. Their efforts achieved what professionals had not thought possible: productive citizens who were fully integrated into the community.
Nearly 60 years later, the Ottawa Friendship House's mission and programs continue to be guided by Jane McCormick's fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of all people. We advocate for individual informed choice and self-empowerment. Through our developmental training, employment, and residential programs, we promote growth, achievement, independence, self-sufficiency, and success through training, assistance, and support.
Over those decades, expert opinion and societal views have evolved to recognize the rights and capacities of individuals with disabilities. United Cerebral Palsy has stated: "At no other time in history than now, and in no other place in the world than America, does a person born with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the best opportunity for a long, healthy, full and meaningful life." This is a development we celebrate. At the same, we know that our programs and our commitment remain essential. Individuals with disabilities continue to experience a lower quality of life and worse health outcomes than their abled counterparts. This is particularly true in Illinois, which consistently ranks close to last among the 50 states in outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Friendship House and our staff of 60 have, however, proved that our society can do better, that we can support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in leading full lives that are enriched by work, family, friendships, community and purpose.
 The Case for Inclusion 2016, United Cerebral Palsy, http://cfi.ucp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Case-for-Inclusion-2016-FINAL.pdf, p. 2.
 The Case of Inclusion 2016, p. 11.