When the Southwestern Regional Centre in Chatham-Kent opened in 1961, it was called the Ontario Hospital School for Retarded Children at Cedar Springs. At its peak in the mid 1970s, the centre was home to 1,200 people with a developmental disability.

On October 30, 2008, the last remaining residents moved from the facility to their new homes in the community. And the centre closed its doors forever.

Institutionalized care for people with a developmental disability peaked in Ontario around 1960.

At that time, the Ontario government operated 16 institutions, home to more than 6,000 people with a developmental disability.

But by now, attitudes towards people with a developmental disability were changing. The community living movement was spreading across North America.

Advocates of the community living movement argued that people with disabilities — including developmental disabilities — are citizens with the right to live and participate in their own communities.

Just like everyone else.

And so the shift from institutional to community living began. And the Ontario government responded. With new legislation. With more money for community services and supports. And with a promise to close all of Ontario's institutions for people with a developmental disability by the year 2012.

On March 31, 2009, it fulfilled that promise.

Today, people like Craig and Lorianne, who once lived in one of Ontario's institutions for people with a developmental disability, now live in their own homes. In their own communities.

Learn more

From institutional to community living: A history of developmental services in Ontario