One week after Ontario closed the last three government-run institutions for people with a developmental disability, the Inspiring Possibilities photo exhibit was opened to the public.

The project aims to educate the public, bringing stories to life through the faces of those who receive help from organizations like Community Living.

Andrew Stawicki, Founding photographer, PhotoSensitive: PhotoSensitive is a group of very talented, very privileged photographers, who are successful already, and we decided to give our talent and donate our time to people and organizations who use our figures and our images to help them to bring the message in to educate people.

Bruce Rivers, CEO of Community Living Toronto: We first had the wonderful opportunity of seeing the exhibit that was done for the Lieutenant Governor on Aboriginal children, and I was really struck at that time by how much attention that garnered in the public and how people sat up and listened and started to understand some of the plight of those individuals. About how elegant you could start to tell that story through photographs. So we started to talk as a group of staff together around this whole concept of approaching PhotoSensitive to take on our cause and we're really grateful for their support in bringing this exhibit to Toronto. And plan that it will travel throughout the province and become a conversation piece and a catalyst for people to talk about the lives of people with an intellectual disability and how great those are "in community".

Tony Hauser, Photographer, PhotoSensitive: Well I've been with PhotoSensitive right from the start. Andrew asked me when they started this organization and I've pretty much done all the projects with them. I just feel, in this world you just have to give a little something back. You have to do something that is not for oneself.

This young man, Greg, from the moment I introduced myself to him, I think we hit it off. He sat down, right beside me, and he was like so uncomplicated. The nice thing about it when you work with a person like that, you don't have to pretend you are anything or anybody. You can just be yourself. The people take you for who you are. The two things he does, which is work in a candy store some days and he also does Tai Chi, that he practices, and so that's I thought would be a nice photograph to do him in his workplace and in his fun place.

Bruce: The Community Living movement is about giving people with an intellectual disability a voice. And helping to change their lives and providing them with choices where they live, learn, work and play.

Lisa Tuckwell, Project Participant, Etobicoke Region: My name is Lisa.

Interviewer: So, what is that picture? Where was that picture taken?

Lisa: On the TTC. On the transit. I come from my apartment and then I go to the warehouse. I do accessories, like purses and perfumes. And when the perfumes are more than expensive, I put them in a case.

My favourite thing is working in the warehouse because everybody gets to know you a lot. There's a lot of people that know you and they have friendly faces. They're always smiling at you and that makes you feel happy inside.

Andrew: Our goal is to educate people today. I'm hoping also, inspire communities to grow. Inspire the public to be involved. Inspire people to join together.

Bruce: You know, it's really interesting when I tell the story of Community Living, because a lot of people say, "So what is Community Living? Do you just help people settle in communities? Is this a settlement service?" And when you start to tell the story and actually bring people out to some of the programs and meet the individuals, they are blown away.

People living independently, semi-independently, and supported in the community. Folks with significant disabilities, both intellectual and physical, who nobody ever thought could move into community and participate in the way that they have. So it's awesome. It's all-inspiring. And the beauty of this exhibit is that it brings all of that to life.

Learn more

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