March 24, 2017
The organization began in 1976 with four members who received $50.00 in seed money from the Ontario Ministry of Community & Social Services. Their efforts, combined with the Ontario March of Dimes, (Regional Manager, Bob Peebles), Barrie Parks & Recreation, and the Ontario Ministry of Community & Social Services, established the beginning of the organization.
1977 – Non-profit Incorporation
In 1977, the Barrie and District Association for the Physically Disabled was incorporated as a non-profit charity. The focus of the Association was independent living, accessible transportation, and advocacy. At this time, many physically disabled people were in institutions, housing and office buildings were not accessible, and few stores and restaurants were accessible. There were no support services offering institutionalized physically disabled people the opportunity to live in their own homes throughout Simcoe County. There were also no accessible transportation services.
One of the first projects of the Barrie and District Association for the Physically Disabled was to host a provincial convention through the United Handicap Groups of Ontario. The 350 delegates from across Ontario came together to discuss and advocate the needs of the disabled. The emphasis of the convention was housing, transportation and employment.
1978 – Establishing Elaine House
In 1978, a young lady, Elaine Knox, with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a neuromuscular disease that mainly affects the nervous system and the heart, had a dream of living independently in the community. She contacted members of the Barrie and District Association for the Physically Disabled and working together, they first rented (with an option to purchase) a home on Cook Street. With the support of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the agency purchased the house, and made major renovations, including a new roof, wheelchair accessible kitchen, and washroom. The house became known as Elaine House and was officially opened in October 1980.
Elaine House opened with five residents, and volunteers assisted them in activities of daily living. Each resident had their own room for which they paid rent, and all contributed to the general running of the house, such as paying for utilities, grocery shopping, meal preparation and housework. This program remained in operation until 2014, when the combined cost of maintaining the building and lack of demand for this type of living situation resulted in closing the program.
1980 – First Accessible Transit Service in Barrie
In 1980-81, the Barrie Kiwanis Club and Easter Seals donated the first BACTS (Barrie Accessible Transit Service) bus to the Association. The staffing and scheduling was done from the organizations’ office at 70 Collier Street in Barrie. The BACTS service continued to grow and in 1989, there were over 400 registered riders totaling 22,000 trips using four buses. This program was transferred to the City of Barrie in 1991, to become part of the City’s public transportation system.
Advocacy was important throughout the late 70’s and 80’s. Bob Kerr and Bob Peebles (The Two Bobs as they became known), would travel to public schools and speak to the students about being in a wheelchair. They also traveled to other communities in Simcoe County to address concerns around accessibility in public buildings.
The early 80’s saw the first outreach program and the Association received funding from the Ontario Ministry of Community & Social Services to accommodate six individuals and their families in Barrie and Bradford. The Support Care Outreach program provided daily living assistance to consumers in their own home between the hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. In the mid to late 80’s, the Outreach program expanded to provide services in Midland, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, and Orillia.
1988 – Growth in Supportive Housing
Additional supportive housing units in Barrie opened on Kozlov Street and Edgehill Drive in 1988 and 1989 respectively. The five units on Edgehill were made accessible by the housing authority because the Barrie and District Association for the Physically Disabled was involved in the blue print stage and at that time barrier-free units were required in each new development.
1990 – Expanding Services to Simcoe County
On April 23, 1990, the Barrie and District Association for the Physically Disabled officially changed its name to The Simcoe County Association for the Physically Disabled (S.C.A.P.D.). This name change reflected the Association’s growth and expansion out of Barrie to cover Simcoe County. Shortly after that, funding for these programs was transferred from the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services to the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care.
With the continued support of expansion dollars from the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, S.C.A.P.D. opened additional supportive housing units. In 1993, five units opened in Orillia, and in 1997, five units on Coulter St. and four units on Duckworth St. in Barrie.
Supportive Housing services were established in Collingwood in 1999, using a modified model for this program due to the difficulty in accessing sufficient apartments in a suitable location. A similar program was developed in Midland shortly afterwards, and further expansion to the Orillia program occurred in 2000.
2001 – Ontarians with Disabilities Act
In 2001, the “Ontarians with Disabilities Act” received Royal Assent in Ontario. The members of the Board of Directors became very passionate about learning about the new act and became active participants with municipalities, in particular, on their Accessibility Advisory Committees to enhance the accessibility of municipalities across Simcoe County as outlined in the legislation. Shortly afterward, the Association created the Simcoe County Accessibility Network to support the efforts of Accessibility Advisory Committees across Simcoe County. This has recently been expanded to assist these groups in neighbouring communities also.
2004 – “Opening Doors and Minds”
In 2004, through the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we began to develop expertise in accessibility consulting and sensitivity training to businesses. This developed into a very active public education/accessibility program, which has trained many of the municipal staff in the region and PSW graduates from the School Board. We began to use the tag line – “Opening Doors and Minds” within the community, to make Simcoe County a welcoming place for all individuals – to describe the focus of our activities.
We also began sharing office space with the MS Society – Simcoe County Chapter, in our main office in Barrie until 2014. We formalized collaborative relationships with the Community Support agencies across Simcoe Muskoka, through a Collaborative venture to strengthen the sector in response to the health system restructuring occurring through the Local Health Integration Networks.
2008 – Independent Living Services is Born
The Association’s growth in accessibility expertise and the incorporation of the Accessibility Resource Centre in 2008, initiated interest within the Association to change the name of the agency to better reflect the needs of seniors and others with accessibility needs. The Board committed to this formal review in 2010, and settled on the name Independent Living Services of Simcoe County and Area, with a broadened mandate covering people with physical limitations also, after extensive consultation with consumers, staff, funders and the community at large.
Since then we have expanded the role of our Accessibility Resource Centre to support the re-use of assistive devices through an internet exchange program.
2012 – Pilot Project for Seniors
In 2012, the Association also assumed the role of “pilot project” in Simcoe County for the implementation of the new Assisted Living Program to support seniors at high risk of losing their independence in the community. This program opened in 2013 covering the far eastern neighbourhoods of the City of Barrie, offering support services to 35 seniors in their homes. It has since expanded to support 48 seniors.
Looking to the Future
The organization’s growth since its inception has been significant. Advocacy and support for the independence of people with physical disabilities and limitations continues to increase, and the organization’s mandate with it.
Many community partners and individuals have assisted the Association over the years to develop accessible housing, recreational facilities, employment supports and public awareness of the needs of the individuals with physical disabilities and limitations in our community.
The Association’s annual operating budget now exceeds $5 million dollars, which consists of grants through the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN, the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, United Way of Greater Simcoe County, memberships, donations, fundraising, and fee for service revenue.
In 2017, the Association employs 150 staff members, primarily as Attendant Care Workers. We currently support 130 individuals in Attendant Care programs across the County, 48 in the Assisted Living Program in the City of Barrie, and over 250 individuals across the region through our Accessibility Resource Centre.
As the Independent Living Services of Simcoe County & Area continues to evolve, it will remain committed to assisting individuals with physical disabilities or limitations to live independently in our community by offering a variety of personal support services. We will also continue to work collaboratively with our community members to make Simcoe County a welcoming place for all citizens.