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More than 300,000 Ontario adults have difficulty expressing or acting upon their wishes because of a disability, medical condition, communication problem or advanced age. Government-funded resources and supports may be available through many ministries and programs. To help people find what may help them, the Ministry of Culture, Citizenship and Recreation produced a useful web-based guide. To reach it, click on http://www.gov.on.ca:80/MCZCR/english/citdiv/disabled/oda8.htm

Resources that might help persons with autism and their families are stressed in this summary, but there is useful information also for people with other disabilities.


Symbol   Denotes
****   relevant for adults with learning/developmental disabilities
**   relevant for children with learning/developmental disabilities
*   usually relevant for adults with physical disabilities
***   relevant for people with mental health needs—"dually diagnosed" if autism as well

  • - Ontario Disability Support Program ****
  • - Employment Supports Program ****

(Funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services through local and regional agencies)

  • - Assessment Services *
  • - Parent Relief *
  • - Family Support Program *
  • - Supported Independent Living Program ****
  • - Infant Development Programs *
  • - Special Services at Home Program ****
  • - Familyhome Program ****
  • - Group Homes ****
  • - Lifeskills Program ****
  • - Adult Protective Services Program ****
  • - Sheltered Workshops ****
  • - Children's Treatment Centres *
  • - Direct Funding Pilot Project ****
  • - Assistive Devices Program ****
  • - Home Oxygen Program **
  • - Community-Based Mental Health Services***
  • Education -- Elementary/Secondary Schools **
  • - Foundation Grant/Special Education Grant
  • - Personalized Special Instructional Equipment
  • - Support for Students with Severe Learning Disabilities (ADHS)
  • - Support Staff such as Educational Assistants, Child Youth Workers, etc
  • - Health Support Services in School Settings
  • - Funding of Education Programs for Pupils in Government-Approved
  • - Care/Treatment Facilities
  • - Support for Students who are Deaf, Blind, Deafblind and Learning Disabled
  • - Building-Related Expenses
  • - Transportation of Students with Special Needs
  • - Special Needs Allocation Program
  • - Bursary for Students with Disabilities
  • - Literacy and Basic Skills Program
  • - Job Connect
  • Justice-Related Services *
  • - Barrier-Free Access to Justice-Related Buildings
  • - Sign Language Translation Services
  • - Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee
  • Property Assessment *
  • - Fair Municipal Finance Act
  • - Assessment Act
  • Tax Credits/Exemptions *
  • - Ontario Motor Vehicle Tax Rebate
  • - Ontario Retail Sales Tax Exemption
  • - Disabled Persons Parking Permit **
  • - Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities *
  • - Child Care *
  • - Workplace Equal Opportunity Project ****




1. Ontario Disability Support Program

ODSP is a needs-tested program that provides income support for people with disabilities and ongoing supports to employment for people who want to work.

Key features of ODSP:

ODSP is a newly legislated income and employment support program for people with disabilities. Proclamation of the Ontario Disability Support Program Act on June 1, 1998 "fulfils the government's commitment to move people with disabilities off the welfare system." Key features of the program include:

  • removing the label "permanently unemployable" to recognize that many people with disabilities can and do want to work
  • using a new definition of disability that recognizes fluctuating or cyclical medical conditions, and functional restrictions in activities of daily living
  • reinstating disability benefits if a job attempt fails
  • no longer requiring people with disabilities to go through eligibility re-testing every one or two years, except in cases where their condition is expected to improve
  • allowing people with disabilities to keep more of their liquid assets and compensation awards, and providing a higher limit on the value of life insurance policies
  • allowing people with disabilities to benefit more from gifts and inheritances so that families can provide a more secure future for their adult children.

You are eligible for ODSP if all following apply:

i. you have a substantial physical or mental condition that is continuous or recurrent and is expected to last one year or more;
ii. your condition restricts your ability to care for yourself or function in the community, or workplace; and
iii. an expert (for example a doctor or psychiatrist) has verified your condition.

Please see the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, section 4, subsections 1 to 3 for the legal wording of this definition.

Complete ODSP policy manual online

Everything you want to know about eligibility, benefits, administration., etc. - also includes information about Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities, (formerly the Handicapped Children's Benefit. Reach it by clicking on http://www.gov.on.ca/CSS/page/brochure/odspis/odspis.html#


2. Employment Supports Program:

The Ontario Disability Support Program also includes employment supports to help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain or maintain employment. These include:

  • employment planning assistance
  • individualized supports to job seekers with disabilities
  • technological aids and devices, and human supports
  • pre-employment services
  • time-limited job supports
  • innovative employment strategies.

For more information about income and employment supports, contact:

Client Information and Support Services
Ministry of Community and Social Services
1st Floor, 900 Bay Street
Macdonald Block, Room 56
Toronto, ON M7A 1E9
Tel: (416) 325-5666
TTY: 1-800-387-5559



Various community-based support and residential services may be provided through local agencies which are approved and funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) to help children and adults live with their family or in their community, and to promote independence and interdependence. Community agencies may offer or co-ordinate some combination of the following services:

  1. Assessment Services that provide clinical assessments of children referred to a community agency because of an apparent developmental disability.
  2. Parent Relief, that provides for alternative care of children and adults with developmental disabilities so parents can have temporary relief from caring for their children.
  3. Family Support Program that provides advice, assistance and case management services, as well as advocacy for children who are developmentally disabled and their parents.
  4. Supported Independent Living Program that provides individualized supervision and assistance for adults with developmental disabilities living in the community.
  5. Infant Development Programs that support and train parents of infants with developmental disabilities (up to age 2) to stimulate their children so they can reach their developmental potential.
  6. Special Services at Home Program, funding (individualized) supports and services for children and adults with developmental disabilities, and for children with physical disabilities, where these supports and services are not available in the community, so they can live at home with their families.
  7. Familyhome Program, funding and supporting families willing to share their homes with up to two children or adults with developmental disabilities.
  8. Group Homes, providing residential accommodation in community settings staffed and operated by non-profit community agencies, and life-skills training and supports to children and adults with developmental disabilities.
  9. Lifeskills Program, helping adults with developmental disabilities gain the skills they need to live independently. These skills include: grooming, banking, budgeting, using public transit and literacy.
  10. Adult Protective Services Program, assisting adults with a disability, and no significant means of social support, to live independently.
  11. Sheltered Workshops helping adults capable of entering the competitive labour market by providing assessment, vocational training and other supports. They also offer non-vocational services, such as activities of daily living, and respite for families where the adult still lives at home.

You may find more in general about these services on pages of the MCSS website:


Most community-based agencies, which are approved and funded by the Ministry to serve people with any developmental disabilities, are now affiliated with one or both of two provincial umbrella organizations. Their websites provide contacts for specific agencies in various regions and communities:
a) Ontario Association for Community Living (OACL) http://www.acl.on.ca
b) Ontario Agencies Supporting Individuals with Special Needs (OASIS) http://www.dhagencies.on.ca/index.html



1. Long-term Care involves almost 1,200 community-based agencies across the province and a variety of services, such as therapy, personal care, homemaking, meal programs, adult day programs, and social and recreational programs. Long-term care services:

  1. lessen dependence on hospital-based care
  2. promote independence
  3. allow persons with disabilities and seniors to remain in their own homes.

2. Long-term Care Facilities include nursing homes and homes for the aged to support people who cannot stay in their own homes and who need 24-hour nursing care.

3. Home Care provides people with disabilities with professional services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech/language pathology, nutritional counselling, and palliative care.

Home Care also provides homemaking services to people unable to perform daily household tasks because of a short or long-term disability.

4. Attendant Services/Outreach promote independent living by helping someone with a permanent disability perform their daily household chores, such as homemaking, cleaning, cooking, laundry, toiletting, personal hygiene and other services.

5. Acquired Brain Injury Services offer community services to people with acquired brain injury, including day programs and respite for family caregivers.

Long-term care services include personal support, behavioural therapy, cognitive retraining and psychosocial training. Services are delivered through home care and community living programs.

For more information about the services above, contact the Community Care Access Centre in your area.



1. Children's Treatment Centres provide rehabilitation services to children and youth up to age 18 who have physical disabilities and communication disorders. There are 14 community-based and four hospital-based centres. Core services include: physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology. Social work services, nutrition services, nursing, medical supplies and equipment, and diagnostic services are also provided, mostly on an out-patient basis.

2. Direct Funding Pilot Project allows people with disabilities to independently arrange and manage their own attendant care needs and services. Funding is given to individuals with disabilities to purchase services, instead of an agency managing services on their behalf. For more information about this program, contact the Centre for Independent Living in your area.

3. Assistive Devices Program: helps Ontario residents with long-term physical disabilities pay for selected and prescribed equipment and supplies. Devices covered for individuals of all ages are: prostheses, wheelchairs/mobility aids and specialized seating systems, ostomy supplies, hearing aids and respiratory equipment, orthoses (braces, splints), vision and communication aids, enteral feeding devices, burn-scar and vascular compression garments and lymphedema pumps. The program pays an annual grant for incontinence supplies for Ontario residents born after July 1, 1963.

4. Diabetic equipment and supplies are covered for selective age groups either through direct payment to individuals or through a grant to the Canadian Diabetes Association, Ontario Division.

5. Home Oxygen Program (HOP): financially assists Ontario residents with chronic illness requiring long-term oxygen therapy for independent living. One hundred per cent of the cost of home oxygen is covered for Ontario residents over age 64, or people on social assistance, home care or residing in a long term care facility. HOP pays 75 per cent of the cost for all others. For more information about these programs, contact:

Ministry of Health
Assistive Devices Branch
7th Floor, 5700 Yonge Street
North York, ON M2M 4K5
Tel: (416) 327-8804
TTY: 1-800-387-5559

6. Community-Based Mental Health Services provide alternatives to in-patient services, reducing the frequency and length of admission to psychiatric facilities, and reintegrating discharged patients into the community. For more information about these services, contact:

Mental Health Program & Services Branch
Ministry of Health
5th Floor, 5700 Yonge Street
North York, ON M2M 4K5
Tel: (416) 327-7239
Fax: (416) 327-7603



1. Special Needs Allocation Program provides funding to post-secondary institutions to accommodate students with disabilities. The Ministry of Education and Training funding is used for counselling and consulting/diagnostic services; technological support, including specially-adapted computers and software; tutors; sign-language interpreters; note-takers; and readers. For more information, contact the disability office located at all universities and colleges in Ontario.

2. Bursary for Students with Disabilities provides money to post-secondary students with disabilities to help them with disability-related educational expenses. To be eligible, students must qualify for funding under the Ontario Student Assistance Plan. The program is administered by the Financial Aid and Special Needs Offices of Ontario colleges and universities. For more information about the Bursary for Students with Disabilities, contact the Financial Aid and Awards Office at all Ontario colleges and universities. Or, contact the Ontario Student Assistance Plan Office at: (807) 343-7260.



1. Literacy and Basic Skills Program offers adults who are uncomfortable with a traditional classroom a different setting to improve their literacy skills. The Ontario Community Literacy (OCL) program funds more than 160 community-based literacy programs designed to meet each community's needs. The OCL program supports four literacy streams for English, French, Native and deaf persons.

2. Job Connect is a career and employment preparation program that includes information and referral services, employment planning and preparation, and on-the-job training. Job Connect services are delivered by agencies such as community colleges and not-for-profit organizations in more than 110 Ontario communities. Service deliverers that receive funding must either offer their programs in an accessible building or develop a plan to accommodate people with disabilities in an alternate location in the community.
For more information on Literacy Services, turn to LEARN in the Yellow Pages. For more information about Skills Training and Employment Preparation, contact the Training Hotline at:
(416) 326-5656
TY/Teletypewriter Users: contact the Bell Relay Services listed in your telephone book under Phone Services for People with Special Needs.



1. Disabled Persons Parking Permit is a portable parking permit giving drivers designated parking spaces and exemptions from municipal traffic control and zoning by-laws. To be eligible for the Ministry of Transport a person must be unable to walk safely more than 200 metres without assistance. The permit may be used when the permit holder is a driver or a passenger. For more information about Disabled Persons Parking Permits, contact your local Drivers and Vehicles Licence Issuing Office, Ministry of Transportation. For more information about Municipal Parking Programs/By-laws for Permit Holders, contact your local Municipal Office.

2. Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities gives money to families who have a child with a disability to help meet the extra costs of significant special needs. Children must be under 18 years of age and living at home with their parents. There is an income limit for claiming extraordinary expenses, as well as a monthly maximum subsidy.

3. Child Care provides subsidies to families in need who have children with a developmental or physical disability. Resource teachers are available through centre-based and in-home programs. Other supports include transportation and adapted toys to support integrated child care programs. For more information about these programs and services, contact your local Ministry of Community and Social Services Office.

4. INFOline at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This multilingual public inquiry unit provides toll-free, one-window access to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Contact numbers are:

Phone (in Toronto) 416-482-4359
Phone (outside of Toronto) 1-800-665-9092
TTY 1-800-387-5559
Fax 416-325-7136

INFOline began in November 1999 to answer calls ranging from general inquiries on ministry programs and services to complex problem inquiries - for example, Trillium Drug Program, Photo Health Card, Assistive Devices Program, Ontario Hepatitis C Compensation Assistance Program, the Ontario Disabilities Support Program and the Ontario Works Program. Information and referral for vulnerable adults were to be added, and calls from vulnerable adults, service providers, caregivers, or family members should be answered. The earlier InfoAbility, providing comprehensive information and referral services for vulnerable adults, their families, and caregivers, is no longer active, but its website is still posted at www.infoability.org

5. Workplace Equal Opportunity Project offers valuable resources such as the Gateway to Diversity Web site, for getting and sharing ideas, experience, and information on equal opportunity in the workplace. Resources include a resource library; examples of organizations' initiatives; information for persons with disabilities on workplace access and integration; listings of diversity-related newsletters and publications; and links to a disability-in-the-workplace services directory. For more information on the Gateway to Diversity Web site, contact:

The Equal Opportunity Project
Equal Opportunity and Disability Access Branch
Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation
3rd floor, 400 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M7A 2R9
Tel: (416) 325-4957
TTY: Contact the Bell Relay Services at voice number (416) 314-6812 or 1-800-491-5104
Web site: www.equalopportunity.on.ca



Finding helpful information may not be straightforward and the process of determining eligibility and obtaining help may be slow. Finding help that is appropriate to autism spectrum disorders is also a bit harder than for general developmental disabilities. These are ways of trying to reach information about services funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

  1. The Ministry has required local communities and regions to create single points of access, information and referral for services for people with developmental disabilities. In the yellow pages of an Ontario phone directory, look under Social and Human Service Organizations for an agency or agencies that include the words "developmental services" or the "developmentally handicapped." Phone to ask how you can get information and help.

  2. The website, created by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, advises you to contact the local Ministry of Community and Social Services Office about supports for people with developmental disabilities. However, current phone directories do not give provide information about how to reach MCSS or its regional and local offices. Another way to find your regional office is to locate your community on the map of Ontario you can find at http://www.gov.on.ca/CSS/page/offices/offices.html
    Then look up the local and toll-free phone numbers for your region.

  3. For specific questions on any supports or resources that may be funded through MCSS or Health, contact INFOline, the multilingual public inquiry unit providing toll-free, one-window access to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The contact numbers are:
    Phone (in Toronto) 416-482-4359
    Phone (outside of Toronto) 1-800-665-9092
    TTY 1-800-387-5559
    Fax 416-325-7136
    This service began in November 1999 to answer calls ranging from general inquiries on ministry programs and services to complex problem inquiries - for example, Trillium Drug Program, Photo Health Card, Assistive Devices Program, Ontario Hepatitis C Compensation Assistance Program, the Ontario Disabilities Support Program and the Ontario Works Program. Information and referral for vulnerable adults were to be added, and calls from vulnerable adults, service providers, caregivers, or family members should be answered. The earlier InfoAbility, providing comprehensive information and referral services for vulnerable adults, their families, and caregivers, is no longer active, but its website is still posted at www.infoability.org

  4. If you cannot find the resources and supports you need, you can email the Minister of Community and Social Services at http://www.gov.on.ca/CSS/page/minister.html



From Asylum to Welfare by Harvey G. Simmons is a history of Ontario’s social and public policies on "mental retardation" from the 1830s to 1980. What it reveals of official attitudes to the handicapped in past times horrifies us. But we may still encounter echoes and shadows of these attitudes and policies today.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it seemed as if Ontario social attitudes and public policy were moving towards more adequate Government funding for people with disabilities. Universal medicare, introduced in the 1960s, was one model. Compulsory special education from 1982, with support for children with special needs within regular schools and classrooms, was another. Strong efforts by parents of disabled children managed to obtain funds for community-based group homes and sheltered workshops, though never enough for all who needed residential and daytime support services. Special Services at Home funding, available from the 1980s, effectively helped families to continue caring for their disabled children at home, but demand has always been much greater than the supply.

In the 1990s, hopes of increased public resources to support people with disabilities to live with dignity in their home communities have been dashed or put on hold. Budgets of the Ministry of Community and Social Services have been drastically cut by the Harris Government. Families and advocates generally approved the closing of large institutions during the 1990s but have been dismayed that only part of the funds saved were used for community services.

All people with disabilities are affected, but those with autism are perhaps most vulnerable because their disabilities are so pervasive and often so severe, and also because so few appropriate services had been designed for their needs before the current cutbacks.

A few specialized autism programs serve only a tiny minority of affected adults in Ontario. These programs came into being through very special circumstances and connections rather than because of a widespread recognition of the distinctive needs of people on the autism spectrum. The Ministry of Community and Social Services, especially in the 1990s, has resisted efforts to create more services and supports designed for people with autism, insisting instead that they should be accommodated in generic programs for all people with developmental disabilities. The ideals of the community living movement, expressed as normalization and integration, and its avoidance of disability labels, may have been good for most adults with disabilities and for the larger community. But disregarding their distinctive differences—and forcing them to conform to group settings and programs they may find unbearable—does not help adults with autism.

We recommend the following web pages and sites for their alternative views of policies and resources for people with disabilities.

In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues is a position paper written for federal-provincial discussions of social policies and support programs for Canadians with disabilities. The text may be found at http://socialunion.gc.ca/pwd/unison/blocks_e.html

The Association for Community Living’s critiques of Ontario Government policies and practices, The Value of One: Respecting and Responding to the Unique Qualities of Individuals (September 1997) at http://www.acl.on.ca/policy/value of1.html and

Rights, Relationships, Resources and Restructuring: OACL’s Social Policy focus for 1999/2000 at http://www.acl.on.ca/policy/4r.html

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee consists of individuals and community organizations, united to secure the passage in Ontario of a new law that would achieve a barrier-free society for persons with disabilities. Its website is at http://www.indie.ca/oda/index.htm

Ontario’s Individualized Funding Coalition is an umbrella group of 35 special-needs organizations, representing more than 30,000 members, which support choice and self-determination for persons with disabilities. The Coalition’s website is at http://www.lefca.com/ifco



Other pages in this section: denotes current page

  What do we know of the needs of adults with autism in Ontario ?
  Why has there been so little progress since 1990 ?
Government policies and resources for people with disabilities.
  Towards effective support strategies and quality of life for adults with autism.
  Quality of Life indicators
  Support circles, clusters and networks
  Individualized approaches to supporting people with disabilities, and Beyond Programs: a parable.
  Individualized funding movements in Canada
  Ten Steps to Realize a Personalized Plan

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