Additional resources for developmental services agencies

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To successfully shift from a sheltered workshop, changes will have to be planned. While it may take some time, it is critical that all transition activities are focused on the end goal.

We’ve compiled two key resources to help agencies plan and carry out a transition:

  1. planning considerations
  2. peer supports

The Employment and Modernization Fund, which is intended to promote greater inclusion and independence for adults with developmental disabilities, has helped some agencies with shift away from sheltered workshops.

Learn more about the fund.


Planning considerations

The following considerations are drawn from best practices from agencies that have completed transitions, including agencies that participated in ministry-organized engagement sessions.


Recognizing the past, identifying the future

  • What is your agency’s vision for the future in terms of the services for people it provides? What guiding principles will stay the same and what will change?
  • How will you recognize the intentions and efforts of those who created and operated the programs you are now transitioning away from?

Ongoing engagement and communication with stakeholders, which includes affected families, throughout the transition

  • Develop communications on expectations and timelines.
  • Start with preliminary information and engagement sessions.
  • Engage all potential partners including people with developmental disabilities, families, staff, board members, unions, service providers, MPPs and other community partners.
  • Maintain regular contact with the ministry and provide updates throughout the process.
  • Consider how you may need to respond to media inquiries and articles.
  • Provide opportunities for partners to offer input into the development of your organization’s vision and path forward.
  • Get the support and buy-in of all partners.
  • Celebrate and share success stories to inspire others, such as families and employers.

Planning and transitioning one person at a time

  • Identify a person’s interests, goals, strengths, abilities, networks and supports, and work with them to develop the best possible support options.
  • Consider what resources you will need to draw upon to complete the planning.
  • Involve circles of support and families in the planning process.
  • Explore opportunities for people to experience a range of activities and enable them to make informed choices.
  • Allow people to complete the transition and become comfortable with their new support arrangements before phasing out existing supports.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of the future direction.

Supporting your staff through the transition

  • Analyze potential impacts of the transition process and outcomes on staff.
  • Provide information on changes and engage staff and your local union representatives as appropriate.
  • Identify any need for changes in the staff culture, such as shifting from providing supervision to facilitating networks and relationships in the community.
  • Provide training and development opportunities to help staff succeed in their roles and develop key skill sets and competencies, such as community engagement and planning.

Ensuring the organization is well-equipped for changes to its structure and values

  • Review your long-term vision and develop key guiding principles for the transition.
  • Keep community inclusion and integration for people at the heart of the organization’s vision.
  • Develop leaders in all parts of the organization.
  • Conduct an organizational analysis to determine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges.
  • Review the current organizational structure and consider what it may look like in the future.

Setting targets and measuring success

  • Establish benchmarks and milestones throughout the process.
  • Determine timelines for key milestones in the transition and an overall timeframe for the transition to be completed.
  • Track key indicators of success, such as the number of successful employment placements, the number of career exploration opportunities and the number of volunteer opportunities.
  • Monitor organizational progress, such as financial reallocations and shifts in resources.
  • Get regular feedback and build on what’s working through surveys and ongoing dialogue with partners.

Maintaining a strong focus on employment

  • Ensure staff providing employment supports are well-trained and have specialized expertise in this area.
  • Develop partnerships with existing employment support providers in the community.
  • Include a discussion on employment as part of everyone’s planning process.
  • Encourage youth to consider employment as an objective.
  • Develop youth employment opportunities like co-op and summer employment in collaboration with partners, such as local schools.

Developing community linkages

  • Strengthen your organization’s relationships with the broader community
  • Harness existing infrastructure, resources, services and programs in the community.
  • Develop community education tools, such as videos to share stories and enhance awareness.
  • Facilitate a culture change in the community, such as making municipal programs inclusive and engaging with the school system.
  • Develop networks and relationships in the community for people and make connections with natural supports.


  • Identify any leases or other contracts associated with current programming that would be impacted by this transition.
  • Identify impacts of transition on other programs or supports offered by your organization.
  • Assess any cost or revenue impacts that may be associated with the transition and how you can manage or mitigate them.
  • Explore how transitioned space might be repurposed to best meet the needs of the people you support.
  • Explore how you may need to dispose of an asset in accordance with ministry policy.
  • Identify your operating budget impacts and plan to repurpose the ministry funding associated with your current operations.


Peer supports

As you plan and carry out your transition, we recommend connecting with one or more agencies that have already completed transitions for advice and insights on the process.

The shift away from sheltered workshops has been happening in Ontario for some time.

Many agencies in Ontario have already moved away from this model. For example:

Some of these agencies completed their transitions more than a decade ago.

In addition, we’ve partnered with the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN). They could provide further support and advice on shifting from sheltered workshops, particularly regarding competitive employment.