People who have developmental disabilities want to be socially, economically, and politically active in our communities. Often, different societal attitudes and assumptions prevent people who have developmental disabilities from being included and participating fully.

By challenging our own assumptions and authentically inviting and including people who have developmental disabilities, we can all help make our communities stronger and more welcoming for everyone.


Ableism refers to discrimination towards persons who have disabilities, including people who have developmental disabilities. It can be through actions as well as underlying beliefs and attitudes. Ableism involves systemic barriers as well as person-to-person interactions, stereotypes and negative attitudes that devalue and limit the potential of persons who have disabilities.

Ableism can be conscious or unconscious and is embedded in institutions, systems and the broader culture of a society.

Some examples of ableism include:

  • not speaking directly someone who has a developmental disability
  • labeling a person who has a developmental disability as “inspirational” for doing typical things, such as having a career, attending school or driving
  • assuming a physical or technological aid is a product of laziness, instead of a helpful tool or accommodation
  • questioning whether a person’s developmental disability is real
  • using ableist language such as “lame,” “dumb,” or “crazy”
  • assuming that someone who has a developmental disability is limited or incapable of making valuable contributions

What you can do to help

Start with getting to know the person and learning from their lived experience. You might be surprised to learn that you share more than one thing in common. Getting to know someone, without assumptions or labels, helps put the focus on their abilities and identity as a person.

Positive interactions without assumptions can also help build more welcoming classrooms, workplaces and communities. While some people who have developmental disabilities may require support with daily life to be independent, get to know a person’s individual needs and learn what support they need to avoid making assumptions.

Whether you’re an educator, employer, friend or neighbour, starting with a personal conversation can go a long way to understanding a person’s interests, skills, and needs.

Consider these basic guidelines:

  • treat people as you would your peers or want yourself to be treated
  • ask if you can help, before acting and assuming someone needs help
  • find conversation topics of common interest
  • ask questions if you don't understand what someone is saying
  • Don’t generalize, judge or compare to others — all people are different

Get involved

Learn about careers in developmental services

Find out how to volunteer in your community

Accessibility in Ontario

Ontario has laws and standards to make the province more inclusive by helping to reduce and remove the barriers that people who have disabilities may face in everyday life.

Learn about accessibility requirements, review accessibility standards and find resources

Learn about how to make your workplace more accessible

Ontario’s work to reform developmental services

Learn how we’re working with partners on a long-term plan for developmental services where people who have developmental disabilities are included and fully belong in their communities and are supported to live the lives they choose.

Learn more about Ontario’s long-term plan for Developmental Services reform


ReportON is a 24/7 phone line and email service for reporting experienced, suspected or witnessed abuse of adults who have developmental disabilities.

If you are, or if you see or suspect an adult who has a developmental disability being abused or neglected, you can contact ReportON 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Learn more about ReportON


Adult developmental services in Ontario

Services for children with special needs in Ontario