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Persons with Disabilities

This page provides information for persons caring for someone with a disability. Persons with disabilities may have been born with a congenital or genetic disease or disorder, may have been injured during the birth process, or may have acquired a disability through an accident, illness, or disease. 

Developmental Disabilities impair a person's ability to complete certain developmental tasks at the usual developmental milestones. 

Cognitive Disabilities significantly limit the ability of individuals to learn and process information.  Individuals have difficulty retaining knowledge, learning skills, making decisions, and communicating with each other. This may result in behavioural challenges that limit interpersonal, social and emotional functioning. Individuals with cognitive disabilities may have developmental challenges that limit their capacity to acquire daily living skills in areas such as self-care, independence at home, in the community, at work or at leisure. Limitations and impairments are persistent, and long term. Cognitive disabilities are not specifically tied to IQ scores. 

Physical Disabilities impact the person's ability to perform some or all physical activities such as being unable to walk, having difficulty with hand control, coordination or speech.  A handicap is the degree to which that disability puts you at a disadvantage in daily life. For instance, someone who is very short-sighted may be considered to have a disability, but she is unlikely to consider this a handicap if she has corrective lenses. A disability may prevent someone from climbing stairs, but this will only be a handicap if the building she wants to enter is not wheelchair accessible.

Below there are general resources related to disability. In separate sections, there are resources related to the following disabilities:

Resources related to Acquired Brain Injury, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also referred to as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), and to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are addressed under separate Health Condition headings.

Information for caregivers :


Aging with a Developmental Disability, Transition Guide for Caregivers

Canadian Association for Community Living

Fr: Association canadienne pour l'intégration communautaire

Canadian Medicalert Foundation.  The 'no child without' program  offers MedicAlert memberships to students (from age 4 to their 14th birthday) in select schools.

Fr: La Fondation canadienne MedicAlert

Child Disability Benefit (CDB)

Fr:  Prestation pour enfants handicapés (PEH)

Choosing a Caregiver for a Child with Special Needs, Community Respite Care Committee, Victoria B.C., 2007, is a 34-page pdf document that provides guidelines to parents for choosing respite care providers for their children with special needs.

CPP Children's Benefits for Students aged 18 – 25

Fr: Régime de pension du Canada (RPC) - Prestations d'enfant versées à des étudiants âgés de 18 à 25 ans

Disability Issues, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC)

Fr: Personnes handicapées

The Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit used to reduce income tax payable, including a supplement for persons under 18, available to individuals who have an impairment in physical or mental functions that is severe and prolonged. If a child under 18 is eligible for the disability amount, that child is also eligible for the Child Disability Benefit, an amount available under the Canada Child Tax Benefit. For details, visit

Fr: credit impot pour personnes handicapees

Fr: Prestations pour enfants et familles

Dog Guide Training Programs

Le guide des besoins en soutien à la famille: Pour les parents d'un enfant ou d'un adulte handicape, Deuxième édition - Juin 2006

A Guide to Assistive Technologies

Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) is a not‐for‐profit organization created by and for families who have a relative with a disability. They help families ensure a safe and secure future for their relative with a disability.

Registered Disability Savings Plan. Some information is available in Chinese and in French.

Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program for Persons with Disabilities (RRAP — Disabilities), Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Travelling with Disabled People

VON Canada, Community Respite Through Neighbours Helping Neighbours 

VON Sites that offer an "Adult Day Program"

VON Sites That Offer an "Alzheimer Day Program" (browse Services and Locations)

VON Sites that offer "In-Home Adult Respite"

VON Sites that offer "In-Home Children's Respite

VON Sites that offer "Overnight Respite Services"

Welcome to the Family: An information guide for parents who have a child with a disability

British Columbia

At Home Program Guide, Ministry of Child and Family Development, December 2010

BC Centre for Ability

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities

The BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities provides financial assistance to families for medical costs not covered by their medical plan, summer camps and transportation to treatment, education and recreational facilities.

British Columbia Interior Independent Living Centre

Child Care Subsidy, Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and

Child Care Subsidy, Special Needs Form

Children and Youth with Special Needs and

Children and Youth with Special Needs, Fact Sheet Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)

The Children's Medical Equipment Recycling Loan Service (CMERLS) is a partnership between the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Canadian Red Cross.

Community Living British Columbia

ConnecTra: Creating Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Independent Living BC (ILBC)

Information for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Development

Kelowna & District Society for Community Living

North Shore Disability Resource Centre Association

Nursing Support Services, Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)

Respite Benefits, Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)

Severe Disabilities or Complex Health Needs, Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)

Surrey Association for Community Living: Programs and Services for People with Special Needs

Travel Assistance Program (TAP BC), A Medical Travel Assistance Program for BC Residents

Your Future Now: For Youth with Special Needs & Their Families is a 72-page pdf document providing practical advice to youth and their families, a structured plan and BC-specific resources.
Fr: Ton Avenir T'Appartient

Services for Family & Community Development (SFCD) is a Provincial Resource Program for families with children (age 5-19) who use sign language for all or part of their communication.

Transition Planning for Youth with Special Needs is a 38-page pdf document providing practical advice for youth, families, and caregivers, a structured plan and BC-specific resources.
Fr:  Planification de transition


Children's Special Services, Manitoba Family Services and Consumer Affairs

Community Living Manitoba

Community Living Winnipeg

Community Respite Services

First Nations Disability Associations of Manitoba Inc. provides peer support, advocacy, referral services, and employment services. Call (204) 953-0310  or toll-free 1-866-370-9875  

Income Assistance for Persons with Disabilities, Manitoba Family Services and Consumer Affairs

Independent Living Resource Centre

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities Inc.

Primary Caregiver Tax Credit

Society for Manitobans with Disabilities

Newfoundland and Labrador

Health Related Services, Labour and Employment, Department of Human Resources

Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living

Persons with Disabilities, Department of Health and Community Services

Special Child Welfare Allowance Program

Nova Scotia

Pharmacare Benefits, Department of Community Services, Government of Nova Scotia


Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities

The Assistive Devices Program (ADP)

Fr:  Programme d'appareils et accessoires fonctionnels

Community Living Ontario

Ontario Disability Support Program

Fr :  le Programme ontarien de soutien aux personnes handicapées

DAWN (Disabled Women's Network of Ontario)

Le Phénix - organisme francophone consacré à l'intégration des personnes handicapées is a non-profit organization working since 1986 to facilitate integration of disabled people. The Phoenix is a reliable resource in terms of accessibility, information and removing obstacles.  The Phoenix is the only Francophone community development organization of its kind in Ontario.

Respite Care

Fr:  Services de relève

Respite Services

Special Services at Home


Québec Association for Community Living (QACL)

Fr : Association du Québec pour L'intégration sociale (AQIS)

Comité régional des associations pour la déficience intellectuelle (CRADI) is a group of organizations engaged in advocacy and promotion of the interests of people with intellectual disabilities, autism or pervasive developmental disorder and their families.

Devices that Compensate for Physical Disabilities, Régie de l'assurance maladie Québec

Fr : Appareils suppléant à une déficience physique


Disability Benefits, Régie des rentes Québec

Fr :  Les prestations d'invalidité
Pages/prestations_invalidite.aspx – A site to help parents of disabled children

Fr : – Un site d'aide pour parents d'enfants handicapes

The supplement for handicapped children, Régie des rentes Québec

Fr :Le supplément pour enfants handicape,  Régie des rentes Québec –-

Office des personnes handicapées Québec, Soutien à la famille


Community Living, Division of the Ministry of Social Services

Individualized Funding, Services for People with Disabilities, Saskatchewan Health

People with Disabilities, Government of Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Aids to Living (SAIL) Program

Saskatchewan Association for Community Living

The Saskatchewan Cognitive Disabilities Strategy

Services for People with Disabilities, Saskatchewan Health

Special Benefit Program, Persons with Disabilities, Saskatchewan Health

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Blindness or Vision Loss

A person may be born blind, or with limited vision, or may lose the sensation of sight, partially or fully during their lifetime.  Blindness or loss of sight may be due to congenital disorders, illness or injury.

Information for caregivers :


Aids to the Blind Program, Special Benefit Program, Persons with Disabilities Program, Saskatchewan Health

Manitoba and Saskatchewan CNIB Local Offices

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term used to describe a group of disorders that affect the way the brain controls the muscles of the body.  CP has different causes, for example, abnormal development, genetic disorders, stroke due to abnormal blood vessels or blood clots or infection of the brain. Rarely, it may be due to damage during the birth process. The development of the brain starts early in pregnancy and continues until about age three. Damage to the brain during this time may result in CP.

Persons with CP have difficulty with movement and posture. It affects each person differently, therefore people with cerebral palsy have varying individual needs. Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, one of more of the following may occur:

  • Muscle tightness or spasm

  • Involuntary movement

  • Difficulty with gross motor activities such as walking or running

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills such as speaking and writing

  • Abnormal perception and sensation

These effects may cause associated problems such as difficulties in feeding, poor bladder and bowel control, breathing problems, and pressure sores.

The brain damage that caused CP may also lead to other conditions such as:

  • Seizures

  • Learning disabilities

  • Hearing impairment

  • Vision problems

People with CP have a normal life expectancy. Damage to the brain is a one-time event so the condition will not worsen with time, although the effects of CP may change over time. With appropriate care and therapy some effects may diminish – i.e. a child whose hands are affected may be able to gain adequate control to learn to type or write.  Others may get worse: tight muscles may cause problems with the hips of spine of growing children which require orthopaedic surgery. 

Adapted from: A Guide to Cerebral Palsy, Dr. A. Mervyn Fox, 1991

Information for caregivers :


A Guide to Cerebral Palsy, Dr. A. Mervyn Fox, Canadian Cerebral Palsy Association, 1991 -
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation assists Canadians with Cerebral Palsy or a similar mobility disability to be able to access assistive devices, related information and services that will assist them now and throughout their life journey.

Nova Scotia

Atlantic Regional Cerebral Palsy Association

Cape Breton Cerebral Palsy Association
1229 Frenchvale Rd
Frenchvale, Cape Breton, NS B2Z 4N2
Phone: (902) 794-2880 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (902) 794-2880      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Halifax Regional Cerebral Palsy Association


Quebec Cerebral Palsy Association

Fr : Association de Paralysie Cérébrale du Québec

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Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Hearing Loss

A person may be born deaf, with limited hearing or partially or fully lose the hearing sense during their lifetime due to congenital disorders, injury or illness.

Information for caregivers :


Canadian Association of the Deaf

Fr :L'Association des Sourds du Canada

Canadian Deafblind Association/Association canadienne de la surdicecite

Canadian Hearing Society

Fr: La Société Canadienne de L'ouïe -

Canadian Helen Keller Centre

Hearing Ear Dog Guides – for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

The Hearing Foundation of Canada

Fr: La Fondation canadienne de l'ouïe -  

My Turn to Learn: An Up-to-Date Guide for Parents of Babies and children with Hearing Loss, 2008. 384 pages. Order form . Available in the following languages: both Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Farsi/Persian, Korean and Punjabi as well as English. 

Starting Point: A Resource for Parents of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children, Second Edition, 2004, is a 104 page, resource-rich guide for parents of a newly diagnosed deaf or hard of hearing child.


Hearing Aid Plan, Programs and Services, Saskatoon Health Region

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Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs at conception. It usually causes delays and limitations in physical and intellectual development. Just as is in the general population, there is a wide variation in mental abilities, behavior and physical development in individuals with Down Syndrome.

The incidence of Down Syndrome in the general population is one in every 650-750 live births. Women under 35 years of age give birth to more than 80% of children with Down Syndrome.

Approximately 30-40% of individuals with Down Syndrome are born with heart defects and some have other congenital anomalies. Most of these defects are now correctable by surgery.

From Newfoundland and Labrador Down Syndrome Society, 2011. 

Information for caregivers :

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Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain characterized by seizures. Seizures are the result of sudden excessive electrical discharges in nerve cells in the brain.  These discharges may affect the whole brain or just part of it.

Seizures may range from short lapses of attention, uncontrolled movements, odd sensations, loss of consciousness, or to severe and prolonged convulsions. Seizures vary in frequency. In some people with epilepsy, seizures happen only occasionally.  In other people, seizures may happen hundreds of times a day.

Seizures affect people of all ages. The majority are affected in the first year of life.  The numbers of older adults between the ages of 60 and 75 years are increasing rapidly.

Most seizures occur in normal individuals. Seizures can be controlled with currently available medication in 70% of the 300,000 Canadians with epilepsy. The remaining 30% of people with epilepsy have syndromes that are accompanied by learning disabilities, behavioural problems, memory loss, psychiatric disorders and/or other adaptive problems that prevent a normal life. Most of the severe epilepsies follow a serious injury such as birth trauma, car accident or stroke. Current medical treatment for these epilepsies does not control seizures and does not improve all of these associated problems. 

In 50 – 60 % of all cases the cause of epilepsy is unknown.  Some known causes of epilepsy include:

  • Injury to the brain before, during or after birth

  • Infections that damage the brain (meningitis, viral encephalitis)

  • Brain tumours

  • Brain injury

  • Disturbances in blood circulation to the brain - cerebral vascular accident (stroke)

  • Genetic or hereditary abnormalities

  • Degenerative diseases

Epilepsy may be treated with medication, surgery, the Ketogenic diet and/or Vagus Nerve Stimulation. The goal of treatment is to stop or reduce the amount of seizures that an individual is having without causing unpleasant side-effects.

Adapted from: BC Epilepsy Society, 2011

Information for caregivers :

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Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular Dystrophy is the name for a group of neuromuscular disorders that are characterized by progressive weakness and wasting of the voluntary muscles that control body movement. As muscle tissue weakens and wastes away, it is replaced by fatty and connective tissue.

Each form of muscular dystrophy is caused by an error in a specific gene associated with muscle function; however, specific disorders within this group vary in many ways. The muscles involved are different from one disorder to another. The severity of the symptoms, the age at which the symptoms appear, how fast the symptoms progress, and what pattern of inheritance the disorder follows, are all factors which differ among the various forms of muscular dystrophy. Even within a specific disorder, several individuals with the same disorder may experience the disorder and its symptoms quite differently.

Muscular dystrophies are genetic disorders. Forms of muscular dystrophy can be passed on from generation to generation, or they can occur spontaneously in a single individual as the result of a mutation of a particular gene. Contrary to popular belief, muscular dystrophy is not exclusively a childhood disorder - anyone can be affected.  While some types of muscular dystrophy are first evident in infancy or early childhood, other types may not appear until later in life.

Over time, persons with neuromuscular disorders may lose the ability to walk, speak, and ultimately breathe. For some individuals, the disorder is fatal. There is currently no cure.

From Muscular Dystrophy Canada, 2011

Information for caregivers :

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The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that runs through the vertebrae (backbones) in your spine. This nerve bundle is about 18 inches long, starting at the base of your brain and ending at your buttocks. The spinal cord acts as a communication superhighway between your brain and the rest of your body.
The spinal cord is most often injured by an accident that causes your spinal vertebrae to break,  also damaging your spinal cord. When the spinal cord is damaged, the body's communication highway is essentially closed. Nerve impulses can't get through. This results in paralysis – loss of mobility and sensation – below the level of injury.

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is devastating, affecting every aspect of a person's life. Each year in Canada, it becomes a painful reality for 1,000 more people.

  • The most frequent cause of spinal cord injury is a motor vehicle collision. Other common causes include falls, diving accidents and medical complications.
  • 84% of people who sustain a spinal cord injury are under 34 years old.
  • 80% of all newly injured individuals who are referred to the Canadian Paraplegic Association are male.

From Ottawa Chapter, Canadian Paraplegic Association, 2011

Information for caregivers :

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