Welcome to Ability First Ottawa

Comprehensive services and support for people with disabilities.


Ability First Ottawa provides services and opportunities for people with and without developmental disabilities.

This non-profit organization offers flexible programs devoted to the development and promotion of creativity, well-being, and community among those with Learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism spectrum disorders and Developmental Disabilities.

The staff ratio is one staff member assisting two participants and the goal is to have ten participants per program. At all times, there will be Developmental Service Workers, along with Developmental Service Workers field placement students, a volunteer from the community, two nurses on staff, and two Personal Support Workers.

This community program is being created to build bridges with other organizations. This program will allow individuals with disabilities to help and mentor other individuals with the same disability as well as help them achieve their goals successfully.

Monthly Programming Available

Summer Camp

Ages 10-70 years of age. Programming includes recreational activities, special guests, motivational speakers, live bands,  artistic activities, theater, and much more.

Adult Skills Training

AFO-Adult-Skills-TrainingAdult skills training is uniquely designed to build and develop the skills necessary for individuals to maximize their potential. We have multiple styles of learning to focus on individual needs such as music therapy, art, and recreational activities as well as several workshops. We utilize these methodologies to stimulate learning and encourage developing skill sets such as:

  • employment search and enrichment
  • communication and social development
  • computers and technology
Professional Mentors Team: Journey  Entrepreneurship 

Our Professional Mentors Team is a group of individuals with disabilities who discuss personal experiences to help motivate and empower the participants to build up self-confidence within a workplace setting. The Professional Mentors Team sets up workshops and motivational speeches that assist students in the Developmental Service Worker program as well as the Personal Support Worker program.

Ability First Ottawa consulting has also supported persons with disabilities since 2015 to gain the skills necessary in order to give employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. We have many volunteers who mentor individuals so that they can be successful in networking events and self-promotion. Some volunteers have even funded supplies they require to participate in the business community. We also provide guidance to those we mentor at networking events such as eSAX Ottawa Entrepreneur networking trade shows, Entrepreneurs in Action hosted by Collab Space.

The CEO and Executive director, Christina Ranieri, SSW, DSW, BA, SOC, an OAMHP-affiliate Cert has provided support and insight to the entrepreneurship community/ organization projects as a consultant since 2008 and volunteers her time raising funds for this program through events and fundraisers via Ability First Ottawa Consulting as well as their other charity initiatives. Ability First Ottawa also provides service navigation to participants/members and their families as one of the day to day operations of Ability First Ottawa.

“I do my best to help so they can move towards a more positive living of their lives. I believe that building the confidence of persons with disabilities who are highly skilled directly impacts persons with disabilities views. From my personal experience, there are many barriers to the community becoming entrepreneurs. Many persons with disabilities are taken advantage of, they need guidance, and some need someone to stand up for them.” (Direct Quote: Christina Ranieri, SSW, DSW, BA, SOC and OAMHP-affiliate Cert, 2008)

Youth Volunteers

AFO-Youth-VolunteersYouth Volunteers are persons with disabilities who assist participants with program workshops. These mature individuals are seeking a better understanding of the Developmental Service Worker field as well as the Personal Support Worker field. General volunteers are a great asset to our program as well as co-op students. They have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and guidance alongside professional mentors.

Housing Assistance

AFO assists vulnerable members of our community in obtaining safe, market-rental housing. Being homeless is EXTREMELY dangerous for individuals with developmental disabilities, and Ability First Ottawa works tirelessly to provide this population with the support they desperately require.

The goal of the program is to provide participants the opportunity to thrive independently in safe and affordable accommodations.

A.R.T. in Action Workshop

art_in_actionAFO is thrilled to partner with A.R.T. in Action to offer a 12 session art program for our participants.

A.R.T in Action was founded in 2014 by artists Mailyne Briggs of  Dream Love Grow and Sarah Lickley. Mailyne and Sarah met while engaging youth and promoting employment and entrepreneurship. They are both passionate about art’s vital importance in young people’s lives and believe strongly in the positive impact that art can have. They noticed the lack of arts programming in various communities and wanted to make an effort to change that. With the support of local artists and generous donors, they were able to facilitate a free 6-week art and multimedia workshop for youth ages 14-29 at PQCHC.

The programming offered by A.R.T in Action has connected youth with art professionals and business owners and in doing so, provided mentorship and employment opportunities. With a small but dedicated team, A.R.T in Action is growing to become an inspiration and integral part of building relationships with youth so they can be a positive change within their own community.

Ability Music & Discover Music

Please welcome Josh Tyler, our new music teacher. Josh is the owner of Ability Music/Music Ability (Copyright) & Discover Music (Copyright). We are so excited to work together.

Christina Ranieri, SSW, DSW, BA SOC & OAMHP-affiliate Cert, and Josh Tyler were both mentored by and were friends with Christopher Linden. Chris was a strong advocate for persons with disabilities and their families by bringing the #ability to music. After Chris passed away, the rights to Chris’s programs were passed to Josh and both he and Christina wanted to make sure that Chris’s program lives on in his memory. #inclusive

From all the Ability First Ottawa team:

Sail on Christopher Linden; you are missed by all those you helped and know we now have the best guardian angel watching over us.

Health & Fitness
In terms of sharing the progression of Abilities First Ottawa (AFO) with our friends, I would like to take the opportunity to mention an idea that was generated from our Participants. Three of our individuals expressed an interest to work out together at the gym and informed Christina Ranieri of their desire to do so. Physical exercise is obviously beneficial for them however, it also created an opportunity to spend time together. The social activity and the feeling of inclusion in making their plans are definitely supported and encouraged by the parents and Developmental Service Workers (DSW).
The reality of being involved with program planning is essential in furthering their confidence for future decision making. AFO provides a hands-on approach while working out at the gym and supporting these young adults around health and fitness training. The guidance and support that is offered by parents and DSWS, for example, transportation, indicates the willingness of everyone to work together.
Zero Waste Gardening Project

Thank you to our friend/alley Jennifer Craig for coordinating the donation of soil for our zero-waste garden. It was great to meet the owner of Richmond Nursery and appreciate your donation 🙂

Due to the need for food, we at #AbilityFirstOttawa are making zero waste mini gardens for those who don’t have access to the food bank and don’t have been denied access to it.

Our Executive director has been collecting seeds and containers.