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Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) helps adults with developmental disabilities connect to services and supports within their communities. Wherever you live in Ontario, DSO can help you or someone you care for connect with: residential supports, caregiver respite, community participation supports (such as for volunteering or employment), professional and specialized services, the passport program and person-directed planning, and various other supports to assist individuals with disabilities to become more involved in their communities.

Connecting with DSO:

  • Your local DSO can provide information on services and supports available in your community
  • It's important to connect to the DSO as soon as possible because the waiting lists for services are long
  • Connect with the DSO as soon as possible after your child turns 16. This way, by the time your child is ready to graduate high school and/or turns 18, your son or daughter will be able to access all of the supports and services for which he or she may be eligible

DSO's Definition of Developmental Disability:

  • Present at birth or is developed before 18 years of age
  • Affects a person’s ability to learn
  • Permanent
  • Mild or severe

So Much Has Changed 

In 1876, the Government of Ontario opened its first institution for people with a developmental disability just outside of Orillia. By 1968 the facility had 2,600 residents. By the mid-seventies, Ontario was operating 16 institutions providing residential care to more than 10,000 people with a developmental disability.

The Developmental Services Act, passed in 1974, was a welcome turning point in how the government facilitated developmental services. It marked an important philosophical shift in how services and supports were provided to people with developmental disabilities, placing new emphasis on greater independence, social inclusion and personal choice. In 2009, Ontario’s last remaining large-scale institution closed.

By 2004 the Government of Ontario began consulting with people with disabilities, their families, service providers and other members of the community, in order to improve services for people with developmental disabilities.

Based on these consultations, a new law was formed: The Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act. This law stipulates who is entitled to services and supports and how they may apply for services. It ensures that services and supports are of high quality and that people have more choice in which services they select for themselves or their loved ones.

Today, the focus is on individualized funding supports and services designed to better reflect, support and include adults living with developmental disabilities in all facets of life.

To learn which services and supports are currently available within your community visit