Why Inclusion Matters: Disability Defined

Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and mind and features of the society in which they live.

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A disability can impact you. It’s the only minority group anyone can become a member of at any time.

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1 in 7 have a disability. By 2025, 1 in 5 people will have a disability.

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Disabilities affect people differently.

It can be permanent, degenerative or temporary.

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Disabilities include:

physical, mental, sensory, intellectual and developmental.

Vecova is where people of all abilities and disabilities can come together in a supported environment to find the programs and services they need for a better life. Vecova wants to be a model for an inclusive world where everyone is accepted, appreciated and accommodated.

Compassionate Solutions for Complex Needs

Vecova’s cluster housing model has been critical to the lives of those with complex needs in our Housing Services. In particular, Vecova operates the Legacy Program, aimed at persons who may have fallen through the cracks of different housing service providers. This model is for persons with disabilities who have mental health issues, substance abuse concerns and may have experienced the criminal justice system.


Vecova’s aim is to provide safe and secure housing, while also facilitating independence, focusing on harm reduction, building skills and autonomy, and giving people more control over their lives.


“There’s obviously a gap in the area of homelessness, especially for people we support. They’re sometimes perceived in a negative way, and people are being left behind and left out,” said Aaron Renner, one of Vecova’s Housing Services Managers, who oversees the Legacy Program. “Especially for folks who don’t fit in traditional models, they may end up homeless or incarcerated or in other situations that are unfavourable. Vecova is proactive and willing to participate in supporting these people’s lives. It’s inspiring to see that we’re helping people who would normally fall between the cracks.”


Renner has seen growth in the consumers. “We’re giving people the chance to grow their skills through new programs, we’re providing support for them to beat their addictions, giving them a chance to not feel isolated, and to feel cared for.”

Creating Safe Spaces to Foster Stability

Vecova’s Housing Services works well because we meet people where they need us. Vecova values those in our Housing Services, and demonstrates that by giving them the tools to live well and grow.


“People are capable of doing great things if they are shown respect and given the opportunity,” Renner said.


Vecova’s Housing Services provides choice, freedom and safety, creating a place where everyone can belong. Through the hard work of our employees, along with the passion and enthusiasm of our consumers and the people in their lives, we are creating a vital sense of belonging.

About Vecova's Housing Services - Cluster Housing Model

Vecova provides a number of different housing services for various needs and levels of support. For more information, click here: vecova.ca/housing

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Up to 24/7 shared support

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Shared Costs

Shared support service costs

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Supports and Programs

Access to supports and programs in the community

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Community Living

Opportunities for social events and community building within the cluster environment

Taking the Lead in Inclusion

When the COVID-19 Disability Survey conducted by the Abilities Centre came out in December 2020, the survey found, “82% of respondents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.” The risk of social isolation persists for persons with disabilities – 80% of adults with disabilities were often found to have a higher level of isolation than the general public.


Vecova addressed this through new programs focused on the well-being and participation of persons of all abilities.


One of one these programs, the Children’s Adapted Recreation Program focuses on building capacity, confidence and access through sports and swimming. This class is designed to be flexible and adaptive to the fundamental motor skills of each child’s specific needs.


“When we started our Children’s Adapted Recreation program, we heard from so many parents – ‘Thank you,’” shared Michelle Thompson, Aquatics, Health and Fitness Assistant Manager. “Especially because of the pandemic, there had been fewer programs in Calgary for a lot of groups, including persons with disabilities. For these parents and their children, these classes at Vecova meant a lot.”


AHF also began new social clubs, open to adults of all abilities. Called Explore Abilities, these activity-based community gatherings provide a supportive, safe and fun way for people to join together once again. Vecova is currently the only agency that offers programming of this nature – social clubs and groups where individuals of all abilities can try new activities, which include games, public speaking, and more.


According to Heather Burke, Explore Abilities Program Leader, Vecova’s consumers have been happy to have this opportunity to reconnect with one another.


“Consumers are very happy to be back at the Vecova community and for many, it is the only time they get to see their friends and favourite staff members. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of consumers coming from other agencies and family-managed programs.”


The programs have also brought out new talents in our participants. “Participants are encouraged to take part in all activities to the best of their ability, and we are constantly adapting our activities to make sure everyone is always included. A surprising number of consumers have embraced the public speaking opportunities and love to come to the podium to talk to the group about whatever they feel the need to share. It makes for some very interesting conversations!”


These programs have filled a much-needed gap in programming for persons with disabilities, which began before the pandemic.


“The lack of affordable programming is also a common issue. Having a place like Vecova where there are so many options in one place, is much appreciated and highly valued.”

Everyone Belongs

As the organization moves forward, Vecova plans on growing to serve even more people.


“Vecova has always been an inclusive place – but now we’re working towards being more inclusive, providing more programs where people of all abilities and ages can find something for them,” Thompson shared.


As we continue to grow and expand our programs and services, Vecova will continue to be a place where everyone, regardless of skin colour, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender or ability can belong.

Something for Everyone - AHF'S Hidden Gems

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Adapted Recreation

  • Children
  • Youth
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Social and Community Programs

  • Explore Abilities
  • Coffee & Chat
  • Coffee & Music
  • Maximize your Music
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Dementia Wellness Program

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Strength & Conditioning

  • Studio
  • Spring Cardio
  • Trekking


Impacting the Future

The presentations shared Vecova’s insights on the areas of mental health, housing services and medical support for persons with disabilities. It also gave the students the opportunity to hear directly from Vecova’s consumers, who shared stories about the challenges and barriers they deal with and what they want future doctors to know.


Among the presenters were Shawna Stewart, Housing Services Manager at Vecova’s complex medical home, and Dr. Aiofe Freeman-Cruz, Senior Clinical Psychologist at Vecova. They were thrilled with the response from the students.


“The majority of the feedback from the students shared that the consumers’ stories of their lived experiences were most powerful. The students were moved,” Stewart said. She went on to explain that this could change how our consumers are treated in the future.


“A struggle can be finding a doctor who will communicate with our consumers and will actually listen to what they have to say. Being able to give these first-year students the understanding about working with this community while they’re learning means that they’ll go into their own practice with this knowledge base.”

Empowering our Community

Vecova’s Vision, “Inclusion for Everyone” can truly begin when everyone raises each other up. As leaders in Calgary’s disability community, we take this seriously. When we advocate for one another, we break down biases and stereotypes and build up empathy and understanding.


Dr. Freeman-Cruz believes that it starts with empowerment.


“A lot of the advocacy we do is client-led. It’s us empowering the consumer to find their own voice, to help them find what they want rather than what everyone else thinks they should have and helping them to learn the skills to advocate for themselves as well.”


“Advocacy is a natural instinct for everyone at Vecova,” Stewart added.


We are proud to continue this partnership with Cumming School of Medicine’s Indigenous, Local & Global Health Office to this day. Through continued presentations and in-home opportunities, we look forward to seeing the impact our consumers and employees have on the community. For more information about Community Engaged Learning, click here.

Other Highlights

Our Impact

“The most meaningful message I am taking away from this was brought up by a consumer — she mentioned how unfair it was when doctors used big words. Vecova’s Charter of Rights is such a brilliant document, and I hope to use that as a framework for how I approach my practice with people of all abilities as I move forward.”

Becky Long


“One of the biggest reasons why my family chooses Vecova is because of what Vecova stands for. Vecova has shown my children that there are no limits to participation and that there doesn’t need to be any division. The community here is inclusive and this is where Vecova is head and shoulders above what other community organizations do.”

Jade Soltice


“Our consumers and the other people living in this housing complex have gotten to know each other. Some of them all go on walks together or hang out at the park together. Lots of them want to learn more about our consumers, about Vecova and how we support them. We’ve been able to have more inclusive opportunities with more people through this move.”

Jennifer Witmer


Numbers At A Glance


Employment Services Business Partners


Social and Community Club Registrants


Aquatics, Health and Fitness Consumers


Wayfinder, Housing, Employment, and Mental Health Services Consumers

Financial Information

Through the fiscal year, ending March 31, 2022, Vecova has focused on building organizational capacity and allowing for sustainable growth now and for the future. The ongoing impact of COVID on Vecova is substantial and is not limited to service delivery, but has also impacted our overall economic environment as donations and government subsidies changed and the charitable sector grappled with a very competitive market for qualified staff.


Vecova undertook extensive planning for its business recovery considering a gradual ramp-up and return of services to align with the easing of COVID restrictions. Although the plans to open were altered, as government restrictions and regulations changed, the re-opening plan provide Vecova with a solid foundation, both financially and strategically, to re-open and ramp up services in a sustainable and prudent manner.  Vecova continued to receive government COVID support throughout the year, including funding under the Federal Government wage and rent subsidy support programs totalling $482,434 and the City of Calgary Emergency Relief Funding totalling $177,800.


During the year, Vecova commenced a strategic plan to divest of some of its owned residential properties. Consumers residing in those homes were moved into new safe, affordable and secure housing units rented from other non-profit organizations in Calgary.  The divestment of four homes resulting in a net gain on sale of $1.84 million.

Thank you

We would like to thank our thousands of donors for their support. Every donation helps us make #InclusionForEveryone possible for people of all abilities.

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LSM Holdings Inc.
Resolute Law Group
XPAN Interactive Ltd.
Ace Fund at Calgary Foundation
Hillhurst Rebekah Lodge #116
Masonic Foundation of Alberta
McKenna Family Fund
Melton Foundation
The Calgary Foundation
Turner Family Foundation at the Calgary Foundation
United Way
University of Calgary
Winnifred Griffith Legacy Fund at Calgary Foundation
Government of Canada – Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
Government of Alberta
Government of Canada
The City of Calgary