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Background & History

Inclusion NS is a provincial family-based non-profit organization that works with and on behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. We are dedicated to attaining full participation in community life, ending exclusion and discrimination based on intellectual disability, promoting respect for diversity and advancing human rights to ensure equality for all Canadians.

In 1954, an ad was placed in the local Halifax paper inviting parents of children with intellectual disabilities (then referred to as mental retardation) to a meeting at the local YMCA. That event, all those years ago, marked the beginning of the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living. It marked the beginning of a provincial movement of parents concerned about creating a better life for their sons and daughters. From that humble beginning, our Association has grown and evolved.

Concurrent to efforts in Nova Scotia, similar measures were occurring throughout Canada, and in 1958, provincial associations formed a national body. Today, Inclusion NS is a provincial-territorial member of Inclusion Canada, the national federation of 13 provincial-territorial associations and over 300 local associations working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families. Inclusion Canada leads the way in building an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone belongs.


The history of our Association, and indeed that of the larger community living movement, is one of continuing change. Our families initiate and sustain change on behalf of their sons and daughters. Change that has witnessed much advancement toward full inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families within all aspects of community and community life.

The early years of our Association saw many efforts toward creating needed services and supports where none existed previously. For example, when our children were not accepted into public school, the Association raised funds and opened classrooms for children with intellectual disabilities. In addition, the Association opened and operated workshops and Activity Centres to provide adults with daytime activities. While by today’s standards, these services were totally segregated, at the time, they represented a significant advance in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Through the years, efforts continued and expanded to support adults to live in-community, outside the family home and not in institutional settings. Through these efforts the group home model was introduced.

These advances were but the beginning of real and sustained change on behalf of persons with intellectual disabilities. The Association-sponsored classrooms became the catalyst for the government of Nova Scotia to accept children with intellectual disabilities into the public education system. Over time and with the urging of Inclusion NS, we have moved to an inclusive education model. Original sheltered workshops have slowly changed, again with support and advocacy from Inclusion NS, from a training model to one that actively promotes and secures real employment in community. Once seen as the only residential alternative for people with intellectual disabilities, institutions are being replaced by a system that provided increased access to individualized supports and services, enabling people to decide where and whom they live.

However, despite all of the progress over the years, parents continue to struggle for inclusive schooling, supported community living and employment support. We know there is still much left to be accomplished before people with intellectual disabilities can fully reclaim their rights as equal citizens. Our Association now works in partnership with many other groups to promote the citizenship of people with disabilities. It is as imperative that families, self-advocates and friends continue to come together and work within our communities to build on the foundations that have been laid.

Today Inclusion NS remains committed to ensuring that individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families have the support they require to live full and inclusive lives in community.


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