Our History

Photo of four people dressed up and smiling in a row.
4 photos in one. On the top left is an old vintage photo of the kinsmen centre boutique. On the bottom left is a photo of 3 people standing outside. On the top right is a photo of a person making bows and on the bottom right is a phot oof five ladies in dresses smiling while sitting around flowers outside.
Old photo of staff and people we work for out at an event posing with a horse mascot!
Old photo of staff and people we work for sitting in a living room with vintage patterned chairs.
Three images in one. First image on the top is of a person supported through KW Habilitation's Inclusive Living program smiling beside a cardboard cut-out of an airplane. Image on bottom left is of Chief Operating Officer of KW Habilitation, Ann Bilodeau, advocating for making housing more affordable for Canadians. Image on bottom right is of two people supported through KW Habilitation's Inclusive Living program enjoying beverages on a bench outside.
Four photos in one. On the top left is two people at a desk taking notes in a classroom. On the bottom left is two photos, one of a lady in red smiling and one of an elderly man in a suit smiling and crossing his arms. On the right is a picture of a young man holding flowers outside.

Like other local community services and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities, KW Habilitation started with a group of concerned parents within the Kitchener-Waterloo area. These dedicated and hard-working parents came together with concerns about their children’s needs and the fact that there were little or no community supports available to meet them. By forming an association, these parents grew and pioneered the development of programs to improve the lives of their children and began the long process of educating the public about the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.

1950s to 1960s

Through the financial assistance and support of the KW Kinsmen and a great deal of fund-raising, these dedicated families were instrumental in establishing two schools, in the late 1950s and mid 1960s, that would provide day programs for children with special needs.

1970s to 1990s

KW Habilitation was incorporated in July 1971, with members being equally elected from the KW Kinsmen and from the KW Association for Community Living. The original core programs established by KW Habilitation were the Development Centre for Children, the Kinsmen Training Centre (a sheltered workshop for adults) and the David Fisher Residence that supported 25 adults. These initial projects taught the agency that, while community integration can sometimes pose many challenges, the increased quality of life of the individuals made it all worthwhile and plans were made to develop more community homes. Over the years KW Habilitation has modified and expanded its programs to provide a range of residential and day options to meet the changing needs of persons with developmental disabilities and their families.

2000s to 2010s

In the early 2000s, we purchased several properties to provide inclusive living housing options for people with developmental disabilities. With support from the KW Kinsmen, Community Placement expanded and hired two Community Initiative team members and then the Transitional Youth Position moved to the Developmental Access Centre and as a result the position of Community Link was established.

2010s – 2020

In 2011 we started growing our own food and Our Farm was established.  Our Training Centre closed, and we shifted to daily group activities that were choice directed and located at our main office building.  We built our first affordable housing building! On the site of the former Kinsmen Training Centre, the 4 story building features 22 one and two bedroom apartments. Our Employment supports program (KW Career Compass) expanded its reach to help people in our community with any barrier to employment and our Early Learning, Child Care and Family Resources program grew and grew and grew. We expanded our reach to provide resources and help to children in licensed child care programs up to the age of 12.


KW Habilitation would not exist without the support from the families who worked together in the early 1950s and 1960s to find a place to meet their children’s needs. The KW Kinsmen and the KW Association for Community Living were instrumental in bringing KW Habilitation together and the legacy of these people remains today.

This legacy is on the walls of our boardroom, in the name of some of our programs, and in the way we operate, even today. The values we stand by today, those of equity, choice, inclusion, and collaboration were built by the folks who brought us together all those years ago.

Today, KW Habilitation has over 500 employees and provides service to thousands of people in our community. Almost 80% of KW Habilitation’s operating budget is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Community and Social Services (MCCSS) and additional revenue is obtained through other government funding, contract work, donations, and fundraising activities.

KW Habilitation is incorporated as a non-profit organization with a cross- section of knowledgeable people serving on the Board of Directors. The agency’s main office is located at 99 Ottawa Street South, in Kitchener, Ontario.