History of Developmental Services

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The dining area within one of the apartment-style residences at the Huronia Regional Centre, Orillia.

Institutionalized care for people with a developmental disability peaked in Ontario around 1974. At that time, the government operated 16 institutions, in which more than 8,000 people lived.

By the 1960s, attitudes towards people with a developmental disability were starting to change. The "community living movement" was spreading across North America. The movement was started mainly by family members who dreamed of a better life for their sons and daughters living in institutions. At the same time, people with a developmental disability also began to advocate for their own rights to live as full citizens.

Advocates of the community living movement argued that people with disabilities - including those with a developmental disability - are citizens who have the right to participate in community life, regardless of the degree of their disability. They argued that with the right community services and supports, people with a developmental disability can live and participate in their own communities just like everyone else.

The Ontario government responded by funding more and more services and supports in the community. These programs included both group and individual living arrangements, as well as day programs such as sheltered workshops and life skills programs.

The shift from institutional to community supports continued to evolve considerably over the next four decades.

Learn more

About the evolution of Ontario's community-based supports and services for people with a developmental disability: