History
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History

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 people 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.

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Disability Rights Movement

1960 - Disability Rights Movement
1960

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
1964

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
1965

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
1965

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.

Incorporation

1966 - Certificate of Incorporation
1966

The organization is incorporated on July 19, 1966.

Ground Breaking Ceremony

1968 - Groundbreaking Ceremony
1968

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
1968

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
1968

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
1969

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..Read More

Partnership

1970 - Pre Voc Partnership
1970

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

Leading Edge

1970 - Leading Edge
1970

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
1970

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

Therapeutic Environment

1970 - Greenhouse
1970

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..Read More

New Programming

1971 - New Programming
1971

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

Education

1972 - Education
1972

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

Workforce

1972 - Workforce
1972

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

Recycling

1973 - Recycling
1973

Vecova begins to operate an onsite Container Refund Depot.

Driver Training

1973 - Driver Training
1973

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

The Hague

1973

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
1974

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.