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Born in a city that had ambitious dreams, Vecova's origins are rooted in a desire to create an innovative organization.

Vecova began as an organization giving persons with disabilities the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives and become part of the broader community. An organization where university scholars could learn from persons with disabilities and those who support them about vocational and rehabilitation theory, and turn that into practice.

Like many Calgary success stories, ours has an inspiring beginning, unprecedented growth and expansion and a future that will see greater societal and individual impact.

Even before the Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute (VRRI) became a reality, what started as an idea due to a “lack of vocational training facilities and sheltered workshops to serve young adults [with developmental disabilities] in Calgary,” grew into an innovative “concept [to] offer hope for dignity to young adults [with developmental disabilities] in the Province of Alberta and all of Canada.” (The Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute – Bringing the Future to Today, 1966)

The intent was “to create a balanced program of training and service to clients and communities all of which is backed by research to guide and answer the complex questions attendant upon such an ambitious goal,” according to the VRRI publication in 1966. The program would “parallel activities of training and research both interdependent and directed at maximizing the occupational and social behaviour of young adults with [developmental disabilities].”

The VRRI, now the Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research (Vecova) opened its doors on July 15, 1969 and has grown from a vocational and rehabilitation institute into:

  • A well respected community organization that believes everyone should have an active and engaged quality of life that enables meaningful connections and contribution to the world.
  • An internationally recognized social research and innovation centre that supports its consumers with progressive practices that integrate disability services, research, social innovation and enterprise that drive social change.
  • An acknowledged model of success for its social enterprises, which demonstrate organizational sustainability through an inclusive community.

In 2019, Vecova marked its 50th Anniversary as a leading edge, registered and accredited charitable organization that is meeting the lifelong and changing needs of persons with disabilities and the community-at-large through its services, research and enterprises.



Disability Rights Movement
1960 - Disability Rights Movement

The disability sector experiences a significant change, where community living and education is seen as a right for all persons of all abilities.

A Spark That Ignites
1964 - Spark that Ignites

Disability maverick Christine Meikle approaches the University of Calgary to develop a program to train persons with developmental disabilities through research-based services and programs. The concept for The Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute (VRRI) is envisioned.

Collective Impact
1965 - Collective Impact

The Canadian Association for Retarded Children, the University of Calgary, the Active 20/30 Club and the Government of Alberta come together to take this innovative concept and make it into a reality.

Centennial Program
1965 - Centennial Program

The National Centennial Project in Mental Retardation provides $7 million to 13 projects across Canada, including Vecova, to celebrate the Centennial of Canada’s Federation in 1967.

1966 - Certificate of Incorporation

The organization is incorporated on July 19, 1966.

Ground Breaking Ceremony
1968 - Groundbreaking Ceremony

The ground breaking ceremony for the facility is held on May 30, 1968. Important dignitaries and key people in the disability sector turn the first sod and bury a time capsule.

A First
1968 - A First

Vecova becomes the first affiliated institute of the University of Calgary and Dr. David Gibson (center) is appointed as the organization's first Director.

Vocational Programs
1968 - Vocational Programs

Vocational contracts secure two-thirds of Vecova's workshop space upon opening to provide the manufacturing, assembly, packaging, repair and maintenance of a variety of equipment.

Doors Open
1969 - Doors Open

On July 15, 1969 the organization opens its doors and begins providing services and supports to persons with disabilities in the community. 146 individuals are assessed as potential trainees for the program in the first year. 46 individuals move into the onsite tower residence and Vecova hosts the Recreation for…
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1970 - Pre Voc Partnership

Vecova and the Calgary Public School Board develop a pilot project to provide vocational training for students with disabilities.

Leading Edge
1970 - Leading Edge

The Adaptive Functioning Index (AFI) is developed as a practical assessment technique for measuring social knowledge and practice of clients.

Bridging the Gap
1970 Bridging the Gap

Vecova opens a gas station to serve the community and bridge the gap between persons with and without disabilities.

Therapeutic Environment
1970 - Greenhouse

The official opening of Vecova's leading-edge facility is held on October 5, 1970. The facility includes sheltered workshops, a residence, greenhouse, cafeteria and dining room, recreation rooms, and an accessible and therapeutic swimming pool. “I think this is one of the nicest things to walk into a building and see…
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New Programming
1971 - New Programming

Vecova develops new programs, including premarital counselling, sex education, home living skills, alcohol moderation, a room and board placement and more.

1972 - Education

A Social and Education Unit begins to provide trainees with instruction in reading, language development and pre-number skills.

1972 - Workforce

A 53-week course for training future rehabilitation personnel begins at Vecova. Students attend from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

1973 - Recycling

Vecova begins to operate an onsite Container Refund Depot.

Driver Training
1973 - Driver Training

Vecova develops a driver training course for persons with disabilities in collaboration with Mount Royal College and the Chinook Driving School.

The Hague

Vecova presents on the organization's programs at the Third International Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the Hague.

Alex Bailey
1974 - Alex Bailey Wing

A new 8,000 sq. ft. wing is added to the facility and is named after Vecova's first chair of the Board of Directors.