AWS Foundation, in partnership with community leaders, celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and honors the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who once called the “State School” their home.
AWS Foundation, in collaboration with community leaders, celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at Northside Park with the unveiling of a new plaque in memory and honor of the thousands of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who once lived at the “State School.”.

“As we celebrate 30-years of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” says Todd Jacobs, AWS Foundation Board Chair, “we recognize the progress made in access for and inclusion of people of all abilities and backgrounds. We also understand that even with all that has been accomplished, there is still more work needed to promote equal opportunities for people of varied abilities. AWS Foundation is committed to leading those efforts through advocacy and our funding initiatives.”

Enacted in 1990, the ADA is a civil rights law which ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. Erasing outdated actions and words used as hurtful labels is central to supporting equality.

“Words have power. We have seen their ability to alter actions and behaviors,” states Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation. “When we learned that the original plaque marking the existence of the State School referenced students as ‘mentally retarded’ children and adults, it had to be replaced. As a society, we must respect, care about, and include all people, not allowing our words to cause harm. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Northside Park is the historical site of the former school originally named The Indiana School for Feeble Minded Youth. Built in 1889, the State School’s dormitories were home to thousands with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Preserving the monument dedicated to those who lived, learned and played where Northside Park is now located reminds our community of the progress we’ve made toward equality for people of all abilities.

Nelson Peters, Allen County Commissioner, states, “The passage of the ADA in 1990 has changed societal norms in today’s world and will continue to have a positive impact on future generations. People have come to realize and appreciate that the success of individuals like Helen Keller, Steven Hawking, and Franklin D. Roosevelt were not tied to their disabilities but rather their abilities. It is my hope that labels placed on people cease to exist. Individuals with disabilities must receive the same opportunities and benefits of our community available to those without disabilities.”

President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990 stating, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion come down.”

Founded in 2007, AWS Foundation supports a wide range of organizations and service agencies in northeast Indiana working to develop a community in which people with enduring intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities are engaged fully and meaningfully in all aspects of community life. For more information, visit

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