Supports for immigrants and refugees with disabilities 

By: Callum Denault

Published on: July 29 2022

Photo: Eren Li (Pexels) 

Moving to and building a life in a new country is hard for anyone, so it would be only natural that people with disabilities face extra challenges settling down in Canada. 13.7 per cent of Canadians have a disability, which is important to remember because even if having a disability can feel isolating, there are always other people in a similar situation. There are always resources to help. 

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for newcomers 

Residents of Ontario who have a disability may be eligible for ODSP, provided they can show documentation to verify their status in Canada.  

Refugees may also be eligible for income support if they also applied for other forms of income as well. The Ontario government expects refugees to look for financial support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). Money gained through RAP is deducted from the amount of ODSP earned per month. 

According to Alex Burke from the City of Toronto’s media relations, only people who become Government Assisted Refugees can benefit from RAP. This means not all refugees are eligible for financial support. Refugees can receive money from the federal government for up to one year.  

Organizations called service providers help Government Assisted Refugees apply for the Resettlement Assistance Program, and the service provider for Toronto is COSTI.

If you are a refugee looking for a place to start applying for government assistance, find your local RAP provider on this government website, or call 311 and talk to someone from your nearest city government.

You can apply for ODSP either online, in person, or by phone. 

Living on ODSP 

The most you can make on ODSP is $1169 a month, and married couples living together are capped at only making $2000 together ($1000 per person). Unfortunately, many people have complained that ODSP is no longer enough money ODSP is no longer enough money to safely live off each month. 

If you are living on ODSP, it is important to save money in as many ways as you can. One potential way people with developmental disabilities can save expenses is through Passport Funding, which is covered later in this article. 

Working with a disability  

The Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) provides wage-loss benefits, medical coverage, and other forms of support to help people living with a work-related injury. The WSIB helps injured workers return to the job market and also provides compensation to people injured at work. It is an Ontario government agency and is funded entirely by premiums from Ontario businesses.  

It is important to know what kind of disability claims you can make and how the disability affects your life. This information both affects your ability to work along with what kind of benefits you can receive from disability claims.  

Healthcare for refugees 

The Canadian Centre for Refugee & Immigration Healthcare provides different medical services for free or for a small fee. Services include mental, dietary, chiropody, dental, paediatric and diabetes-related services as well as healthcare for women. They also have a general clinic of volunteer healthcare providers. 

The Ontario Mental Health Centre (HPSC-OMHC) and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) both offer services for refugees. See their entries below under Mental Health.

Resources for those with intellectual/developmental disabilities and autism 

Passport funding helps adult residents of Ontario with developmental disabilities by covering the cost of various goods and services, including public transportation, access to recreation centres, and hiring support workers. You can apply for passport funding through Developmental Services Ontario (DSO).

A staff member from the DSO said refugees and immigrants can apply for Passport Funding as long as they have some documents proving they live in Canada under refugee status or as a landed immigrant. The staff member said an Ontario health card is needed at some point in registering for Passport Funding, although if someone does not have access to a health card, they can prove their identity using another document—like a driver’s license or passport—and send their health card information to the DSO when they get it. 

People applying for DSO services will need to get a psychological assessment either from the DSO, a doctor’s referral, or at a private organization which typically cost a lot more money than the first two options. Because disabilities such as autism exist on a spectrum, not everyone who applies for Passport Funding may be eligible. It depends on the results of your assessment and how the DSO interprets it. Additionally, the process may take months to complete. 

The full list of rules and possible expenses covered by Passport funding is here.

CAMH has Adult Neurodevelopmental Services for people aged 16 years or older with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. The services are intended for those with a documented diagnosis, and mental health concerns such as, “severe aggression, self-injurious behaviours (SIB) or severe persistent repetitive behaviours.” They also offer support to adults who want to learn more about a potential autism diagnosis. You will need to be referred here by a doctor. 

The Down Syndrome Association of Ontario has a resource for those with intellectual disabilities who need help booking their COVID-19 vaccine appointment. 

Mental health 

The Ontario Mental Health Centre also offers counselling and psychological testing for refugees. 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has services for refugees, although a doctor’s referral is required and there is a three-month waitlist before you can see a psychiatrist. The link used here includes a referral form to send to your doctor.

The Ontario government lists various mental health resources, including those for youths, Indigenous people, and those requiring internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps people develop mental skills to deal with conditions such as anxiety and depression. Available iCBT services include Mind Beacon—a free program funded by the Ontario Government—and AbiliCBT.

Photo:Meruyert Gonullu

Families and children 

The Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, along with other programs, also offers services to children and familiesaffected by cerebral palsy.  

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital offers a variety of medical, social and mental care to children and families with disabilities.  


ParaSport Ontario and the ON Para Network both offer sports programs that are accessible to people with physical disabilities, including wheelchair sports. 

Special Olympics Ontario provides sports programs as well as healthcare screenings to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

DramaWay offers participation in different art programs for people with various disabilities.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *