Independent Living

The Evolution of Support Services in Ontario

Independent Living is both a philosophy and a movement espousing choice and control in daily living for people with disabilities.

To understand the evolution of services we have to go back to 1967. Prior to this time, the options for individuals in need of attendant care were few:

In order to provide another option, the first group home was established in Toronto in 1967. It housed 61 people in a purpose-built facility and was funded under the Charitable Institutions Act. It rapidly filled to capacity and there was rarely a vacancy up to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Between 1967 and 1972 the limitations of this model were identified and documented:

By 1973 several alternatives had been developed, each in its own way striving to overcome some of the limitations of the original group home. These took two forms:

While the size of the smaller group homes enabled a more individual approach and a home-like environment, they still operated under the same legislative restraints as the original home, such as inadequate funding to provide more than a minimal level of attendant care and a lack of individual control over finances. At this point in time, the concept of a single self-contained unit as an appropriate housing option for physically disabled people in need of attendant care did not exist.

By 1975, a very different concept of how to overcome these problems slowly emerged. The primary features of this new concept were:

This concept was adopted by four groups who were in the process of developing new alternatives. They were located in Toronto, Thunder Bay, Windsor and Ottawa. The Toronto project opened its doors in June of 1975 with no government funding. Agreements for the rent supplements of the apartments were reached relatively quickly. These had been leased from a private developer for a period of ten years. It was five months before the province announced that it would fund all four groups on a demonstration basis for a period of three years. Between 1976 and 1979 several significant developments occurred:

By now, the basic issue had become not one of the viability of such projects, but one of the on-going funding mechanism. Without reiterating all of the dealings that occurred in the provincial / municipal dispute over funding, all of this activity came to a head in late 1979 when the Province of Ontario announced it would proceed with the funding of several new projects. Ultimately the funding remained at the provincial level and became the Ministry of Community and Social Services “Support Services for Physically Disabled Adults Program”. During the years from 1980 to 1982 many changes occurred:

Looking from the outside, this evolution appears to have occurred relatively quickly. Those involved to bring it about might not perceive it that way. This evolution was the result of:

People with disabilities, and all those committed to the Independent Living Philosophy, continue the socio-political advocacy for access, services and supports that will ensure people with disabilities are fully able to exercise their rights as citizens in Ontario.

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