Our History

ABLE2 History 

Our story starts in 1966, when Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger embarked on a project in the United  States to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities in moving from institutions back into community life. At that time, there was a growing realization that institutionalization was not the best solution and that individuals with disabilities could, with support, be valuable contributing members of society. The Citizen Advocacy movement was a response to the realization that people with disabilities could thrive and participate in the community.  

The concept spread to Canada in 1971 and was established in Ottawa by David Hall in 1974,  initially known as Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa-Carleton, with its first Executive Director, Eileen  Scotton. At that time Citizen Advocacy matched volunteers from the community and people with intellectual disabilities, assisting them to get out and participate in the community.  

From 1985 to 2018 the organization was led by Brian Tardif. During this time support was offered to more people across the disability spectrum and other programs and supports were added such as Lifetime Networks (now Build Community), Independent Facilitation & Person Directed Planning (now Person-Directed Planning & Facilitation), the Fetal Alcohol Resource  Program and Sibling Groups. 

In 2020, under the leadership of Heather Lacey, the organization was renamed and rebranded.  Other programs were added such as the Funding Brokerage and the Education Series. The  Communications, Engagement and Fundraising team was also formed with a mandate to diversify and solidify the agency’s funding and to increase awareness of the agency, its work and the impacts on the community. 

In January 2023, Reach Canada merged with ABLE2. Reach Legal Services is now an ABLE2  service, and the legal education workshops continue as part of ABLE2’s Grow Education Series.

Reach Canada was incorporated in 1981 as a response to the United Nations’ International Year of Disabled Persons. From the beginning, hundreds of legal professionals and volunteers have donated and continue to contribute their time and expertise to provide excellent and timely legal advice and educate the community on disability-related topics.  

Reach began by taking on a case for an individual who became the inspiration for the creation of Reach – Rod Carpenter. Through determined effort, a bank account was arranged for Rod,  which permitted him to use his thumbprint as a signature. Today individuals with all types of disabilities call upon Reach regularly. 

Every year, ABLE2 supports more than 2,000 people with disabilities to build lives of meaning and joy. It is estimated that support has been indirectly given to three to four times as many people – family, professionals, and community members. 

In Ottawa, more than 500 people volunteer their time and skills with ABLE2, contributing more than 36,500 hours yearly. 

A network of national, provincial, and local governments and foundations funds the work of  ABLE2. However, that funding is not secure, and ABLE2 relies heavily on and generous donors fundraising.