Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Manuel Riemer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Historically, Ontario’s developmental services (DS) has evolved largely guided by the knowledge and direction of non-disabled service providers and government. However, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities promotes the participation of people labeled with disabilities in decision-making processes about the programs and policies that impact their lives. Existing theories and literature reveal the importance of collaborative partnerships where power is shared with service users through participatory decision-making, shared leadership, and opportunities to participate with influence. Four self-advocates labeled with developmental disabilities collaborated as co-researchers in this participatory action research study to explore what model of collaborative partnerships best met the inclusion goals of service users labeled with developmental disabilities in these settings. Nine adult service users labeled with developmental disabilities and twelve leaders/managers of eight Ontario DS organizations participated in virtual semi-structured interviews. Thirteen service users participated in two focus groups. Findings suggest a model of collaborative partnerships that may meet service users’ goals for inclusion is a strategy of participation that positions service users as experts and partners with the power to effect change and integrates their expertise at each level of the organization and each stage of the service delivery cycle. This model is composed of key elements, which fall within three supportive layers: a supportive organizational culture, inclusive and influential methods of participation, and supported and committed members. What becomes clear through these key elements is the need for a human rights and democratic approach to participation whereby service users are positioned as expert citizens and right bearers welcomed into the design and provision of services that affect their lives. Such a shift is best facilitated through systems change and a shift in power at multiple levels.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season