99 Northern Avenue, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6B 4H5
Phone: 705-253-1700     Toll Free: 1-800-448-8097

Our History

Early in the 1950's, a group of parents developed school programs, often in church basements, so that their children who had a developmental disability could be educated. There were no other educational opportunities available for students with such needs. Many people gave freely of their time to develop volunteer based programs, and to seek government support to maintain and expand upon the small base of services. This was really the beginning of a recognition of the gifts and strengths people with disabilities have, and the belief that they should be part of their communities.

In 1954 the Sault Ste. Marie Association for the Mentally Retarded was established to provide service to people who were both physically and mentally disabled. These services continued to expand, both in size and variety, to meet the needs of the people who utilized them.

1974 saw a landmark commitment by the Ontario government to community-based services for people with a developmental disability, and the creation of The Algoma District Mental Retardation Service. For the remainder of the 1970's and the 1980's, these local agencies and other community organizations were involved with the development of pre-schools, developmental centers, residential programs, vocational programs, and parent support services. Although these organizations adopted the philosophy of integration, normalization and inclusion, services were very "program" oriented and there was not overall coordinated plan for growth and expansion.

In the 1980's institutions in Northern Ontario began to close, with the people who lived there re-integrated into their home communities. This was a huge step forward towards community living for people with disabilities and their families.

In the Algoma district, steps were taken by the government to amalgamate the major service providers in order to provide an ease of access for families. Following years of planning, Community Living Algoma assumed the responsibility for providing supports and services on April 1, 1994 and adopted a mission statement "That all people live in a state of dignity in their community, where they can access supports needed to ensure full inclusion." 

Based on a vision of equality of rights, opportunities, and responsibilities for all citizens, CLA developed goal and priority statements in important areas. All goals strive for inclusion in the community. CLA believes that people with a developmental disability must be able to access the same education, housing, employment, social, leisure, recreation, and retirement options as anyone else, and that they have the right to make informed choices about their life.

Services and supports are changing as people are beginning to make real choices. Many people have chosen to move from residential settings to homes of their own, or to community family homes, or to other settings that suit their individual lifestyle the best. Other people are choosing to work in community settings, some are even choosing to own and run their own small businesses, while others have chosen to remain in a more supported environment.

CLA will continue to advocate and educate where necessary to ensure that people with a developmental disability are afforded all rights and choices, and that they are welcomed, respected and accepted in their community.