National AccessAbility Week

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities issued the following statement to announce National AccessAbility Week (May 28 – June 3): 

“As Canada’s Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities, I believe that our country’s diversity is our strength—and when we include people with disabilities, we create a stronger Canada for everyone.  

It is my pleasure to announce that launching this spring, for the first time in many years, an annual national week devoted to inclusion and accessibility.

From May 28 to June 3, 2017, National AccessAbility Week will celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities and workplaces across the country.

We’ve made great strides in promoting inclusion for Canadians with disabilities, but there is still much work to do.

To create a truly inclusive society, we need to change the way we think, talk and act about barriers to participation and accessibility—and we need to do it right from the start, not as an afterthought. An inclusive Canada is one where all Canadians can participate and have an equal opportunity to succeed.    

National AccessAbility Week will aim to bring this perspective to the forefront for Canadians, and highlight some of the important initiatives this government and its partners are undertaking to bring about this change.

Please join us in celebrating National AccessAbility Week. “

For more information visit:
Follow:  @AccessibleGC on Twitter, Accessible Canada on Facebook


Spotlight On Transformation – May 2017

The May 2017 edition of “Spotlight on Transformation” is available. This bulletin is provided by the Ministry of Community & Social Services and covers the developmental services transformation.

In this issue:

  • Ontario Renews Commitment to Supporting Adults with Developmental Disabilities in the 2017 Budget
  • Investment Supports Greater Employment Opportunities for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
  • Employment and Modernization Fund Project Receives International Recognition

To view the bulletin click here
To view previous editions of the bulletin click here

ReelAbilities | May 11-18, 2017

We are excited to be co-presenting MY HERO BROTHER at ReelAbilities Toronto

ReelAbilities Toronto was the first international city to host a ReelAbilities Film Festival in 2016. This Festival is returning to Toronto this year, to champion and create opportunities to showcase disability and Deaf cultures through film, and the art and talent of artists with disabilities and Deaf artists. This years line-up includes Canadian and International premieres. The 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival will be held on May 11 – 18.

MY HERO BROTHER is a film about a group of young adults with Down syndrome embark on a demanding trip through the Himalayas, accompanied by their siblings. Their journey brings unresolved challenges to the surface.

A discussion panel with the cast and director Yonatan Nir will take place after the film. Watch the trailer by clicking here and get your tickets now by clicking here.

To view the full lineup of events click here.

Responding To The 2017 Budget

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa tabled Budget 2017 in the Ontario Legislature yesterday.

Reena is pleased to provide this commentary on how Budget 2017 impacts on those we serve, individuals with Developmental Disabilities and in particular on their inclusion in Ontario society.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services has demonstrated that those with Developmental Disabilities are important to the fabric of Ontario and the Government of Ontario has supported this by granting MCSS $ 677 increase over 4 years.

MCSS Budget for the developmental services sector is projected to increase by $130 Million in this fiscal year, a significant upfront investment in the 4 year plan. We are pleased that this investment builds on the $810 million allocated over the last few years and will help expand efforts for social inclusion for the most vulnerable in our community by:

  • Providing over 375 additional residential developmental services placements for individuals with urgent needs and youth transitioning from the child welfare system;
  • Supporting 1,000 additional adults with developmental disabilities to participate in their communities through the Passport program;
  • Establishing a special residential support home for individuals with complex needs who are moving from justice facilities;
  • Expanding specialized clinical responses for individuals with complex special needs; and Improving access to local community services by making the system easier to navigate
  • In addition, a capital investment of $5 million in 2017-18 will go to support transition home and innovative housing solutions.

Reena remains ready to work with all levels of government and the private sector to maximize the impact of Budget 2017 to support social inclusion.

Budget 2017 focuses on assisting vulnerable populations and we are pleased to see that the Government has recognized that individuals with Developmental Disabilities are included in this definition. Building on the Ombudsman’s Report, “Nowhere to Turn”, we encourage all Ministries in the Government to work together to ensure that those with Developmental Disabilities are not left behind. This increased investment and cross ministry effort is reflected in the integrated approach in housing, mental health, health care and basic income pilot project.

The following are examples:

  • Under the affordable housing strategy the Ontario Government is going to strategically leverage Provincial land assets .. The province will pilot the program at multiple sites in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, committing $70-$100 million in land to develop up to 2,000 new housing units, including a mix of market and affordable housing
  • Beginning in spring of 2017, the Province will work with municipalities, the federal government, the housing sector and other interested stakeholders to confirm the pilot sites and final program design.
  • For Dementia there will $100 million invested over 3 years including expanding province-wide access to community programs and other investments to enhance access to care, information and support from as early as possible once a diagnosis is made
  • Help patients and their caregivers find and access the most appropriate care and supports, improve training and education in dementia care for personal support workers, physicians, nurses, and other front line workers
  • Invest an additional $20 million in 2017 for respite care

The immediate positive impact of this budget will be felt with an expanded ODSP benefit program, increased employment supports, the expansion of affordable housing and growing passport funding so that individuals and their families can better manage and improve their own lives.

  •  The basic income pilot will commence this year in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay
  •  Investing more than $480 million over four years to raise asset limits, increase income exemptions for cash gifts, and provide a rate increase that will benefit more than 900,000 people across Ontario form Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program
  •  For ODSP recipients, effective January 2018, the cash and other liquid asset limits will be increased from $5,000 to $40,000 for single individuals, and from $7,500 to $50,000 for couples
  •  Effective Sept 2017, income exemption for cash gifts will be increased from $6,000 up to $10,000 per year in both ODSP and Ontario Works
  •  Effective Sept 2017, gifts in any amount will not reduce the amount of social assistance people receive if the funds are used to pay for first and last month’s rent, purchase a principal residence, or buy a vehicle that they may need
  •  ODSP rates will increase 2% effective Sept 2017, and will include increases to other social assistance benefits and allowances, such as Personal Needs Allowance

Bryan Keshen, President and CEO of Reena indicated “I am pleased to see an expanded investment in services through the Ministry of Community and Social Services for those in crisis and in transition to adult services. I am particularly thrilled to see the recognition and investment in inter-ministerial efforts with expanded housing, support for caregivers, and health services targeted to the most vulnerable populations of which those with developmental disabilities are disproportionately represented.”

It is unfortunate that core budgets of all agencies are flat and are not even indexed to inflation. All MCSS agencies, including Reena, will need to be creative and raise additional resources and/or cut non-essential services.

The budget was silent on a number of key areas of concern for the sector, namely base funding to cover inflationary costs nor was there any provision for legal and legislated responsibilities such as pay equity. In response Bryan noted that “agencies like Reena will need to be creative in their program provision without cutting core services and will increasingly depend on community support and philanthropy.”

Carolynn Morrison, parent of an individual supported by Reena and Chair of Reena’s Government Relations Committee commented: “We are pleased with the recognition and support of individuals like my son, but with no base funding increases, it makes me wonder what my son and his friends were able to do last year that they will not have the supports for next year. We can’t keep falling behind inflation.”

Our Son’s Inclusionary Experiences Formed The Highlights Of His life

Our son’s inclusionary experiences formed the highlights of his life; and Reena played a role in many of those activities. Joel had Aspergers Syndrome. Simply put, half his brain worked like a rocket scientist and the other half just didn’t seem to click. He was a charming nerd whose concrete thinking, perseveration, and inability to decipher social cues sabotaged his earnest efforts to make and keep friends.

His own and our efforts to include him in the community informed and defined our family for twenty five years, and Reena was one of our partners on that journey. They listened, understood and did all they could to support Joel via: Teen Scene, Mod Squad, Basketball, and eventually Reena’s Birthright Israel Shadow Program that provided a trained volunteer to be Joel’s “roommate” and travel partner on that once in a lifetime trip to Israel. He left for the trip not being sure he could do it, and he came home proud of his accomplishment and even more delighted with new friends who accepted him for who he was, admired him for what he did, and got together with him on an ongoing basis after everyone was back home.

Joel's Story

We all flourish courtesy of healthy relationships with others. When people with developmental disabilities are not afforded opportunities to interact with others, they wither. When they are included in the community, they thrive and so do we.

The issue is that human beings have been hardwired to fear and avoid the unfamiliar. Throughout history, “the other” was viewed with fear and trepidation. It’s no wonder that even in today’s climate of political correctness, many of us remain uncomfortable in the presence of people whose abilities are different than our own. We don’t like to admit it, but our behaviors often suggest our unease. We excuse ourselves by thinking: “I just wouldn’t know what to say”…..”What if I make a mistake or do the wrong thing?”….”I might do more harm than good.” Certainly it is easier to look away and “count our blessings.”

Taking a leap towards someone who is different is one of the most important challenges we can take on. The fact this can appear difficult, is exactly what makes it so worthwhile. Each person who has taken on the challenge can testify to its positive effects.

Think about it and reach out to Reena to learn about ways you can make a difference to those who are different. Include yourself in Reena’s mission to help people with developmental disabilities live, work, and play in our community.

– Julie, Reena Family Member

National Volunteer Week 2017

National Volunteer Week

April 23 to April 29, 2017 is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate and thank Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers. Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Just like roots are essential for trees to bloom, volunteers are essential for communities to boom!” – Volunteer Canada

On behalf of everyone at Reena, I want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to YOU for your selfless dedication to helping others and for all of the time and energy that you devote to volunteering with us. Your contribution truly helps our Reena community to BOOM!

To learn more about volunteering at Reena click here

Interactive Forum & Networking Event

Event: Career Advice For Persons With Disabilities

You are invited to an information sharing event at Reena on May 11! A panel of experts will be discussing “Career Advice For Persons With Disabilities”.

Please RSVP to or call (905) 889.6484 x2222 by April 28.

Please note photos/videos will be taken at the event and used online for promotional purposes.

We hope you can join us!

Annual General Meeting 2017

The Board of Directors of Reena, Reena Foundation & Batay Reena invite you to attend the 2017 Annual General Meeting.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 | 7pm
Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre
927 Clark Avenue West, Thornhill, ON L4J 8G6

Election of Directors
Approval of Financial Statements
Presentation of Awards

RSVP by Friday, July 7, 2017 by clicking here.

2017 Federal Budget Highlights

On Wednesday March 22nd , the Government of Canada announced the 2017 federal budget. You can read the complete budget at Budget 2017: Building a Strong Middle Class. We welcome the investments in housing and employment and look forward to working with all levels of government to create housing opportunities for Vulnerable Canadians with Developmental Disabilities.

Below are some key highlights that align with our discussions.

National Housing Strategy

The Government has announced $11.2 billion over 11 years allocated for the implementation of an inclusive National Housing Strategy. The 11-year investment in a National Housing Strategy is significant given the length of the investment as it will allow for planned initiatives short term and long term. The investment also highlights the government’s commitment to flexibility and new ways of working.

The NHS investment includes:

  • $2.1 billion/11 years to expand and extend the Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
  • $5 billion/11 years to develop a new National Housing Fund to address critical housing issues and prioritise vulnerable citizens such as seniors, Indigenous Peoples, survivors fleeing domestic violence, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, and veterans.
  • $3.2 billion/11 years devoted to a renewed multilateral investment framework devoted to building new affordable housing and renovating and repairing existing units.
  • $202 million/11 years to make more federal lands available for affordable housing and to fund environmental remediation, renovations and retrofits to make the land suitable for housing
  • Support for innovations in affordable housing: To develop a stock of
    affordable rental housing that delivers a better quality of life for residents,
    CMHC will make up-front capital contributions available to affordable housing providers. This will encourage innovative approaches to housing development, such as energy efficiency retrofits to lower utility costs, and
    accessibility modifications to expand the range of housing options available
    to Canadians living with disabilities.

  • It should be noted that in addition to the $11.2B allocated to the NHS, the federal government announced its intention to protect the baseline funding for operating agreements, but with greater flexibility on how those funds can be used. This is significant as until now the commitment of the federal government was to let those agreements expire over the next ten years adding to municipal pressures.

    Reena Response

    Thank you for investing in housing and identifying the issues of vulnerability and persons with disabilities.
    Reena hopes to see an equitable approach to delivery. We believe and data supports that, on any measure of vulnerability the developmentally disabled are unfortunately amongst the most vulnerable including those experiencing poverty, abuse, homelessness, health risk. We will be seeking a national effort to provide not just equal support but equitable support, linked to the unique needs of these citizens.

    Employment – Giving Canadians Living With Disabilities An Opportunity To Succeed – Budget pg 71

    “Canadians living with disabilities have the same ambitions as all other Canadians—they want an opportunity to find good, well-paying jobs, make a contribution to their communities and the economy, and build a better life for themselves and their families. In the coming year, the Government will explore options to improve work opportunities and employment outcomes for persons with disabilities. This will include the development of new planned federal accessibility legislation, which will promote equality of opportunity and increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians who have disabilities or functional limitations by increasing accessibility and removing barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction. The Government sought input from Canadians on this planned legislation through consultations held between July 2016 and February 2017”

    Employment and Skills Training: $2.7 Billion over 6 years

    This investment is being made to upgrade Labour Market transfer payments to Provinces and Territories. The intent is to modernize jobs and training supports for job seekers, to upgrade skills, gain experience, and get counselling. This includes availability of EI funded training to those previously not eligible. Pilot measures are proposed related to providing student loans for adults returning to school.

    Reena Response

    Persons with developmental disabilities have the lowest participation rates in the labour market and are an under utilized portion of the workforce. We support an investment in work related training for high school and transitional aged youth like those provided through Reena’s Summer Employment Training Program (SET) and Channels and Pathways to employment.

    Enabling Accessibility Fund – Budget pg 143

    “The Enabling Accessibility Fund supports the construction and renovation of public spaces to make them more accessible, making it possible for Canadians with disabilities to participate more fully in their community and the economy. Since its creation in 2007, the program has provided funding to over 2,300 projects across the country, leading to significant improvements in the lives of Canadians.

    However, more needs to be done to improve the safety and accessibility of community spaces and workplaces. Budget 2017 proposes to provide $77 million over 10 years to expand the activities of the Enabling Accessibility Fund. Eligible projects will include constructing and renovating infrastructure (e.g., adding ramps, automatic door openers and accessible washrooms), providing accessible information and communication technologies and retrofitting vehicles”

    Reena Response

    We support this investment as improving the safety and accessibility of community spaces will lead to a greater opportunity for inclusiveness of those with Developmental Disabilities.

    Going Forward

    The budget signals not only an investment in housing and homelessness, but a commitment to a policy direction that is much welcomed for engaging the disabled as full citizens.

    As we go forward, here are some things to consider:

  • Much of the funding announced in the budget is ‘back loaded,’ meaning funding commitments may not kick in until several years from now. While this will undoubtedly raise some concerns, it also creates an opportunity to ensure that programs are thoughtfully designed and funding aligns well with efforts of other orders of government. Further, this provides an opportunity to build on our relationships at all levels of government.
  • We need to realign our relationship nationally with partnerships, specifically with A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and press for the government to focus its investment on those most vulnerable. These potential partners are unaware and rarely speak to the issues of people with developmental disabilities.
  • It is promising that the federal budget highlights prevention and inclusion. For instance, the government’s intention to champion better outcomes for youth through education, training and employment, is an important strategy in our efforts for full citizenship and inclusion.

  • We need to commit ourselves to working with all partners and all levels of government, to ensure we leverage today’s investments, and those of the future, to make the shift toward a new approach. One that ensures everyone in Canada has access to safe, secure, suitable and affordable housing.

    Bytes & Bites On Delirium

    The Toronto Partnership on Aging and Developmental Disabilities (TPADD) has prepared its forth bi-monthly newsletter. This newsletter follows feedback obtained from Developmental Sector professionals seeking information and knowledge related to supporting persons with a developmental disability. “Bytes and Bites” will endeavour to be your go to place for quick information on a variety of selected topics related to aging adults with a developmental disability.

    To view the April 2017 edition of Bytes and Bites click here

    Spotlight On Transformation – March 2017

    The March 2017 edition of “Spotlight on Transformation” is available. This bulletin is provided by the Ministry of Community & Social Services and covers the developmental services transformation.

    In this issue:

    • Ministry Launches New Web Page on DS Transformation
    • Ontario Eliminates the 2014 Passport Waitlist One Year Ahead of Schedule
    • Ontarians Share Insights on Housing Solutions for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

    To view the bulletin click here
    To view previous editions of the bulletin click here

    Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program – A Student Perspective

    DDC Graduation 2016

    I have been immersed in the special needs world for 15 years. When my son was diagnosed with autism at age four, I was thrown into a whirl of psychiatrists, therapists and specialists.

    I quickly developed a strong appreciation for all of the professionals who put so much effort into supporting my son and our family. I also developed a strong sense of solidarity for individuals with special needs and a keen interest in the field more broadly. Enrolling in the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program at Reena enabled me to bring these facets together.

    The fact that my son currently lives in a Reena Home presented some challenges. Some of my instructors work directly with him, and I would often reference my own experiences as a mother of an individual supported by Reena in class.

    I often found myself switching hats from the viewpoint of a mother to that of an aspiring professional. One example was when I needed to interact with my son’s Reena Home Supervisor the same day that he was instructing in the program. My son’s staff also had to adopt a critical distance when interacting with me in a classroom setting. Overall, I believe my fellow students benefited from hearing a Reena mother’s perspective in the classroom.

    I am grateful to Reena for the quality of care my son receives, and for giving me the opportunity to enter the field as a professional. As a mother, I was grateful for an opportunity to observe the quality of education my son’s caregivers support staff receive. I will use the skills and knowledge I acquired in the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program to treat the individuals who I care for professionally with the same dedication and compassion that I would want my son to receive.

    – Sylvia, 2016 Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program Graduate

    To learn more about the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program at Reena click here.

    Chag Sameach

    Passover Card

    We wish you health, happiness and peace this Passover!

    Interested in performing a Mitzvah for Pesach? Open your home to an individual supported by Reena! Contact us for more information by clicking here.

    Need Passover Cards? We got you covered! Click here to order cards designed by individuals supported by Reena.

    Ontario Government Boosting Housing Supports

    Reena and the Intentional Community Consortium (ICC), wish to commend Minister Ballard and the Ontario Government on their welcome initiative to boost Housing Supports for up to 6,000 families as announced earlier this week. We all recognize the need of vulnerable communities and are further pleased that Ontario is playing a leadership role in assisting Indigenous communities.

    We are also most appreciative of the Province providing funding to our group of more than a dozen developmental services agencies known as the ICC to develop an inclusive, community-based housing strategy for adults with developmental disabilities. This funding is a welcome starting point that we believe will be instrumental in the creation of much-needed housing across Ontario for persons with developmental disabilities.

    Looking forward, we would appreciate similar support for the over 18,000 individuals across Ontario with developmental disabilities who are currently experiencing similar needs for secure affordable housing with appropriate supports.
    The ICC is guided by a vision of creating housing options in communities across Ontario while leveraging collaborative partnerships.

    Reena, as lead agency of the ICC, is a non-profit organization which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values.

    For more information click here.

    Learning To Do Something You Could Be Great At

    Kyle Salami Wrap

    Kyle is a 17 year old young man with an infectious personality. People are just naturally drawn to him. As a teenager with Autism this can be tricky. Kyle has created his own way of getting to know people which he calls a “salami wrap”, where he rolls his tongue and then asks you to do the same. It’s his way of gaining social interaction.

    Kyle attends Outreach and Respite Programs at Reena, a non-profit agency which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values.

    Just like any other teenager Kyle craves independence. All parents want to teach their children fundamental life skills that will ensure they are successful in becoming an independent adult. Kyle’s parents are no expectation. They believe that “you can’t learn to do something you could be great at if you are never given the chance to try it”.

    Reena is a place where Kyle can be himself and reinforce his independence, whether it is an activity he is participating in, interacting with his peers or practicing and gaining life skills. Kyle won’t even allow his family to walk him into the building where he attends program. Reena, for Kyle, means independence. It is where he gets to spend time with people his own age; playing sports, arts and crafts, learning new recipes, going to parties, swimming and Canadas Wonderland.

    Reena Ready to Play
    Recently, through a generous donation from the Toronto Raptors, the group was able watch a courtside practice, game and meet a player. While his family was concerned about how being in an entirely new space with new people would impact Kyle, they knew it was opportunity they couldn’t deny him. Going to the Toronto Raptors game would enable him to test out new social skills.

    The most impactful moment of the entire game was when Delon Wright joined the group to answer questions. Kyle stepped out of his comfort zone to greet Delon with a “salami wrap”. Watching Kyle introduce himself to someone new, in his own way, was huge. This gentle moment truly touched the staff team at the game who knew it was so much more than just a simple expression.

    Jaime, Kyle’s favorite staff member at Reena, who has watched him mature over the years felt that this moment at the Raptors game with Delon Wright “was a great example of how there is no limit to what a person with Autism can do”. You have to allow people to try new things, even though they may fail, so they can learn to do things they could be great at.