17355 27A Avenue, Surrey, B.C. V3Z 0E9


ORW's History and Future


The agency’s roots go back to a province wide study done in 1963 that recommended the creation of a vocational rehabilitation workshop to serve people with a disability in British Columbia. An initial merger with the Vancouver Training Workshop for the Handicapped was followed three years later by the purchase of Welfare Industries from the First United Church. This agency was Opportunity Rehabilitation Workshop and became known as ORW. The focus of the agency was the provision of vocational assessment, skill training and job placement service to residents of British Columbia with all types of disabilities. To support these activities the agency operated 12 thrift stores and a processing plant that collected and refurbished donated items. ORW became the first organization in Canada to be accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.


Throughout all aspects of the organization there has always been an attempt to be at the leading edge with progressive and innovative approaches. These beliefs lead to the organization undertaking a major review in 1980. There was an underlying belief that the resources of the organization could be better used in promoting inclusion and access to generic services. After more than a year of research, the Board of Directors concluded that the "workshop" model would be terminated and the organization would no longer provide direct service to individuals. Instead it would become an independent neutral resource that would advocate for systemic changes that would increase training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.


We are now in the final transition stage for the organization during a dramatically changing environment of employment services for persons with disabilities. The Board and members have decided to close the society. To create a legacy and leave resources capable of having an ongoing impact on the employment of persons with disabilities two funds have been established:


·       At UBC an ORW Opportunities through Rehabilitation and Work Society Award for a graduate student in a Faculty whose work or research addresses how policy change can reduce or remove barriers to employment and enhance workplace inclusiveness for persons with disabilities. (see https://support.ubc.ca/news/endowment-supports-research-that-advocates-inclusiveness-for-persons-with-disabilities/  Application can be made through http://ogpr-educ.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2015/08/Masters-Tri-Agency-Info-Package-2015.pdf


·   At Douglas College a Joan Meister ORW Memorial Fund for Students with Disabilities Bursary. This bursary, in memory of Joan Meister, was established in the Spring of 2004 by the Opportunities Through Rehabilitation and Work Society. Joan Meister's life was tragically cut short during the Winter of 2004. She was an advocate for women and people with disabilities. Joan also volunteered many hours towards her causes. This bursary is awarded to students in the Adult Special Education programs and/or students with disabilities in the process of pursuing an education as it pertains to an employment-related goal. Contact the Douglas College Foundation http://www.douglascollege.ca/about-douglas/groups-and-organizations/douglas-college-foundation for additional information.


On the internet since      August 31, 1996

Last modified                January 25, 2016

Contact: info@orw.ca