Ministry Decides Not to Eliminate $100 Monthly Benefit

The Ministry of Community and Social Services has announced that it will not be proceeding with a plan to eliminate a $100 a month benefit paid to people receiving ODSP who are employed.

Ministry officials indicated the planned elimination of the Employment Benefit has been “paused indefinitely”.

The ODSP Action Coalition launched an effective campaign to lobby the Ministry to re-visit its plan.


Affirming the Spiritual Dimension of Life

This year’s theme for Community Living Month, Affirming the Spiritual Dimension of Life, is inspired by the Templeton Prize and its 2015 recipient, Jean Vanier.  The purpose of the award is to honour a living person who has made “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

Each day for the month of May we will be honouring well-known and not so well known people with a disability.  Their lives and their trials and tribulations are inspirational and affirm the spiritual dimension of life.

May 29th


We are inspired by the people we support.  Each day they teach us something about the spiritual dimension of life by overcoming attitudinal barriers, misconceptions, and stereotypes about disability with dignity, courage, and grace.

May 28th

STEVIE WONDER – Singer, Songwriter (1950-

Blind since shortly after birth, Stevland Hardaway Morris, known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. A child prodigy, he became one of the most creative and loved musical performers of the late 20th century.  Wonder signed with Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11 and has continued to perform and record for Motown as of the early 2010s. He has been blind since shortly after birth

He has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and received 25 Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist, and has sold over 100 million albums and singles, making him one of the top 60 best-selling music artists. Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a holiday in the United States. In 2009, Wonder was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 2013, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the U.S. singles chart’s 55th anniversary, with Wonder at number six.

May 27th

JOHN NASH – Mathematician (1928 – 2015)

John Forbes Nash is an American mathematician whose ground breaking work in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations have provided insight into the factors that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life.  At a young age he was interested in scientific experiments which he carried out in his room. He studied chemistry and mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University. Later he was awarded a Fellowship at Princeton. In 1959 John Nash started showing severe signs of paranoia. He believed that there was an organization chasing him. In the same year he was admitted involuntarily to the hospital where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After treatment he was again admitted to the hospital this time voluntarily for 9 years were he given shock therapy. After returning from the hospital in 1970 he gradually started recovering.

May 26th

RICHARD BRANSON – Businessman (1950 – )

Founder and chairman of Virgin Group, Branson did not breeze through school. In fact, school was something of a nightmare for him. His scores on standardised tests were dismal, pointing to a questionable future. He was embarrassed by his dyslexia and found his education increasingly difficult. He felt as though he had been written off, but his teachers had failed to detect his true gifts. His ability to connect on a personal level and his intuitive sense of people were not detected until a frustrated Branson started a student newspaper. The incredible success of the publication, the Student, was the start of a richly diverse and successful career. By believing in himself and focusing on his unique talents, despite the challenges posed by dyslexia, Branson successfully overcame his difficulties and has not looked back. 

May 25th

JOHN WESLEY OWELL – Explorer, Geologist (1834-1902)

John Wesley Powell had a strong interest in nature and science even as a child. After he lost his right arm in the Civil War, his father urged him to become a minister saying, “Wes, you are a maimed man, get this notion of science and adventure out of your mind.” Ignoring this, John Wesley became a science professor and explorer who developed an interest in preserving Native American cultures. In 1879, he founded the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology to study and record the traditions of Native Americans.

May 22nd

MARLA RUNYAN – Athlete (1969 – )

At the age of nine, Runyan developed Stargardt’s Disease, a form of macular degeneration, that left her legally blind. Marla Runyan is a three time national champion in the women’s 5000 meters. She won four gold medals in the 1992 summer Paralympics. In the 1996 Paralympics she won silver in the shot put and gold in the Pentathlon. In 2000 she became the first legally blind paralympian to compete in the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. She holds numerous American records.  In 2001, she co-wrote and published her autobiography “No Finish Line: My Life As I See It”.

May 21st

Sudha Chandran (1964 -) Dancer

Sudha Chandran was born to family in Chennai, South India. She completed her Masters in Economics from Mumbai. On one of her return trips from Mumbai to Chennai she met with an accident resulting in the amputation of her right leg. She was given an artificial leg and despite her disability, she became one of the most accomplished and acclaimed dancers of the Indian Subcontinent. She has been honored with numerous awards and has performed all over the world

May 20th

Jean-Dominque Bauby (1952 – 1997) Journalist

Jean-Do was a well-known French journalist and author and editor of the French fashion magazine ELLE. In 1995 he suffered a massive heart attack causing him to go into a coma for 20 days. After coming out of the coma he found himself with a rare neurological disorder called Locked-in syndrome, in which the mental state is perfectly normal and stable but the body is paralyzed. In the case of Jean-Do he was able to move only his left eyelid. Despite his condition, he wrote the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking when the correct letter was reached by a person slowly reciting the alphabet over and over again. Bauby had to compose and edit the book entirely in his head, and convey it one letter at a time. To make dictation more efficient, Bauby’s interlocutor, Claude Mendibil, read from a special alphabet which consisted of the letters ordered in accordance with their frequency in the French language. The book was published in France on 7 March 1997. Bauby died just two days after the publication of his book.

 May 19th

Christy Brown (1932 – 1981) Writer and Artist

Christy Brown was an Irish author, painter and poet who had severe cerebral palsy. Born in Crumlin, Dublin to parents Bridget and Paddy, he was one of 13 surviving children (out of 22 born) in a Catholic family. He was disabled by cerebral palsy and was incapable for years of deliberate movement or speech. Doctors considered him to be intellectually disabled as well. His mother continued to work with him, and try to teach him. One day, he snatched a piece of chalk from his sister with his left foot to make a mark on a slate.

At about five years old, only his left foot responded to his will. Using his foot he was able to communicate for the first time. He is most famous for his autobiography My Left Foot, which was later made into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name. The Irish Times reviewer Bernard Share said the book was “…the most important Irish novel since Ulysses”. Like Joyce, Brown employed the stream-of-consciousness technique and captured the Dublin culture in his use of humor, language and unique character description.

May 15th

Tom Wiggins (1849-1908) Pianist and Composer

Thomas Wiggins was a slave from Georgia who likely was autistic. From an early age he had the ability to compose and play music and he toured concert halls in Europe and America. He had numerous original compositions published and was one of the best-know American performing pianist in the 19th century.  Geneva Handy Southall wrote a book about him entitled, “Blind Tom, The Black Pianist Composer: Continually Enslaved.”

May 14th

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770 -1827) Composer

Beethoven is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers in history. He gave his first public performance as a pianist when he was only 8 years old. He studied in Vienna under the guidance of Mozart. By his mid-twenties he had earned a name for himself as a great pianist known for unpredictable and brilliant improvisations. In the year 1796 Beethoven began losing his hearing. In spite of his illness he immersed himself in his work and created some of the greatest works of music. Beethoven’s finest works are also the finest works of their kind in music history: the 9th Symphony, the 5th Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, the Late Quartets, and his Missa Solemnis. And he achieved all this despite being completely deaf for the last 25 years or so of his life.

May 13th

Judy Heumann ( 1947- ) Activist

Heumann’s commitment to disability rights stems from her personal experiences. She had polio at the age of 18 months, and has used a wheelchair most of her life. Heumann had to fight repeatedly to be included in the educational system. The local public school refused to allow her to attend, calling her a fire hazard. Heumann’s mother challenged the decision and Judy was allowed to go to school in the fourth grade. Judy Heumann began taking major steps toward rights for people with disabilities in college, organizing rallies and protests with other students with disabilities. When she got out of school and was denied her New York teaching license because the board did not believe she could get herself or her students out of the building in case of a fire, she took the case to court. After the judge recommended that New York City’s Board of Education rethink its decision, Heumann became the first person in a wheelchair to teach in New York City and taught elementary school there for three years.

In 1970 Heumann and several friends with disabilities founded Disabled in Action, an organization that focused on securing the protection of people with disabilities under civil rights laws.  In 1974 she helped develop legislation that became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

May 12th

Barbara Turnbull (1965 – 2015) Journalist

Barbara Turnbull a journalist for the Toronto Star and a quadriplegic who became a champion of disability rights and organ donation, died on May 10, 2015.

Turnbull became a quadriplegic after being shot in the neck in 1983 during a robbery at a convenience store where she worked.   She went on to graduate with honours from the journalism program at Arizona State University in 1990 — as class valedictorian.

Her psychological and physical battles and the lessons she learned after the incident that left her a quadriplegic are told in her own words below.

May 11th

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – U.S. President (1882-1945)

Franklin Roosevelt served for 3 terms as President of the United States and helped pull the country out of the depression through social programs. He also led the U.S. through World War II. Due to polio, FDR could not walk unassisted. Unfortunately, because of the times, he felt he had to hide the extent of his disability from the American public.

May 8th

Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

Helen Adams Keller was an American author, political activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become known worldwide through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker. Sullivan taught Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with d-o-l-l for the doll that she had brought her as a present. A prolific author, Keller was well traveled and was outspoken in her opposition to war. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, and socialism, as well as many other progressive causes. In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller and Sullivan traveled to over 39 countries, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every US President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, and Mark Twain.

May 7th

Stephen Hawking (1950) 

Stephen William Hawking is a British theoretical physicist, whose world-renowned scientific career spans over 40 years. His books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity and he is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Stephen Hawking is severely disabled by motor neuron disease, likely a variant of the disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS). Symptoms of the disorder first appeared while he was enrolled at Cambridge; he lost his balance and fell down a flight of stairs, hitting his head. Worried that he would lose his genius, he took the Mensa test to verify that his intellectual abilities were intact. The diagnosis of motor neuron disease came when Hawking was 21, shortly before his first marriage, and doctors said he would not survive more than two or three years. Hawking gradually lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and as of 2009 was almost completely paralyzed.

May 6th

Frida Kahlo – Artist (1907 – 1954)

Frida Kahlo was a renowned Mexican painter who created striking paintings, most of them being self-portraits reflecting her pain and sorrow. She painted using vibrant colors that were influenced by the cultures of Mexico. She was the first Mexican artist of 20th century whose work was purchased by an international museum. Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg thinner than the left, which Kahlo disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. It has been conjectured that she also suffered from spina bifida, a congenital disease that could have affected both spinal and leg development. Although she recovered from her injuries and eventually regained her ability to walk, she was plagued by relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life. The pain was intense and often left her confined to a hospital or bedridden for months at a time.

May 5th

Jhamak Ghimire – Nepalese Poet and Writer (1980)

Ghimire was born with cerebral palsy and taught herself to read and write. “Now she has been a known literary person in Nepal. As a result of her dedication to literature writing, she has been awarded by Kabita Ram Bal Sahitya Prativa Puraskar 2055, Aswikrit Bichar Sahitya Puraskar 2056 and many other letters of felicitation from different social organization. Some people would like to address her as ‘Hellen Keller of Nepal’.

May 4th

Otto Weidt (1883-1947)

Otto Weidt was compelled by his growing blindness to abandon his work as a wallpaper hanger. He thereupon set up a workshop for the blind at 39, Rosenthalerstrasse in Berlin N., which manufactured brushes and brooms. Practically all of his employees were blind and/or deaf Jews. They were assigned to him from the Jewish Home for the Blind in Berlin-Stegliz. When the deportations began, Weidt fought with Gestapo officials over the fate of every single Jewish worker. As means of persuasion he would use both bribery and the argument that his employees were essential for fulfilling orders commissioned by the army. Once, when the Gestapo had arrested several of his workers, the self-appointed guardian of the Jewish blind went in person to the assembly camp at the Grosse Hamburger-Strasse, where the Jews were incarcerated pending deportation, and succeeded in securing their release at the last minute.

May 1st

Harriet Tubman – Rescuer of Slaves (1820-1913)

Harriet Tubman was a slave born on a plantation in Maryland. When she was thirteen years old she threw herself between a fellow slave and the plantation overseer who was about to whip him. The overseer struck Harriet on the head. For the rest of her life she had a form of epilepsy. When she was 29 Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery and dedicated the rest of her life to rescuing other slaves and to civil rights, including women’s suffrage.




Community Living Month: Affirming Life’s Spiritual Dimension: Jean Vanier and Disability

We recognize Community Living Month this May by celebrating a great Canadian and humanitarian, Jean Vanier, for his advocacy work and reflections on the importance of helping the vulnerable

On March 11, 2015, Jean Vanier was awarded the highly esteemed Templeton Prize.  Created by the mutual fund pioneer and philanthropist John Templeton, the prize honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.  Past winners of the prize include the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Son of the former governor-general, George Vanier, Jean Vanier resigned his commission as a naval officer in 1950 to find an outlet for his faith and desire to help others.  Mr. Vanier was drawn to the plight of institutionalized people.

In 1964 he invited to people with a developmental disability to live with him in the village of Trosly Breuil, north of Paris, in a house they called L’Arche, after Noah’s Ark.

More than 50 years later, L’Arche has more than 100 communities worldwide.

Mr.  Vanier has long said that one becomes more fully human when living side by side with those who are different. 

VIDEO What does it mean to be fully human, Jean Vanier, Templeton Prize
















Jean Vanier speaks on the Big Questions (full version) – YouTube
The 2015 Templeton Prize Laureate, Jean Vanier, speaks on the Big Questions – What does it mean to be fully human? – What is God’s dream for humanity? – How …


Peel Service Providers Asking for Your Input on Service Coordination to Children and their Families

As part of a provincial initiative involving four Ministries (the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) to improve services for children with special needs and their families, Peel service providers are reaching out to families and their family members for their input by completing a survey.

Parents/Family/Guardian Survey

Children/Youth Survey

To learn more about Ontario’s Special Needs Strategy click here


Ministry Housing Task Force Calling for Expressions of Interest

As of March 31, 2014, there were 14,326 Ontarians with a developmental disability waiting for residential supports. (Auditor General of Ontario, 2014 Annual Report.)  In September 2014, a Housing Task Force was struck to look at “innovative, alternative approaches to residential supports”.

The Housing Task Force’s Expression of Interest is seeking cost-effective demonstration or research projects related to housing for people with a developmental disability.  Read More…