Every year, KidsAbility supports more than 11,000 children and youth in Southwestern Ontario. Clients are helped through programs designed to assist with communication, social and physical goals, but face significant challenges when they move beyond the scope of their services at 21 years old.

“Over the many years I’ve worked in this field, the consistent complaint I’ve heard is that youth fall off a cliff when they transition from the children's services sector to the adult sector,” says Linda Kenny, the Chief Executive Officer for KidsAbility. “A young adult leaving home at 18 or 19 is already trying to navigate their way into that next stage of their life. Now add on complexity around needing services or equipment or accommodations and take away the services they relied on because they are over the age of 18 or 21. You can appreciate why people will describe it as falling off a cliff.”

As children and youth, participants can access a variety of treatments and services under one roof at KidsAbility. As they become adults, those same services become decentralized, requiring people to navigate through a number of organizations to access the same services they were getting through one organization.

Tackling real world challenges

group photo

L-R: Caleb O. Williams, Sarah Berdowski, William Nippard, Charlotte Jane Ogalesco, Lindsay Krahn.


This challenge of transition was a perfect fit for the Workplace Innovation program at GreenHouse -- the Social Impact Incubator located in St. Paul’s University College at the University of Waterloo. The Workplace Innovation program pairs interested students with host organizations and challenges them to develop solutions to real world problems. Students are assembled into teams that work with host organizations over 8 months. The teams are provided with support and resources and are trained to use an innovation framework to identify opportunities and design solutions.

The five-member team of students and alumni who worked with KidsAbility are William Nippard, Charlotte Ogalesco, Lindsay Krahn, Sarah Berdowski and Caleb Williams. At first, the team considered building a solution that would be more internally focused for staff to use, but that didn’t respond to the needs of the organization or their clients.

The value of lived experience

By working with people who have lived experience and staff from KidsAbility, they decided on a tool that can be used directly by clients and their families. Their solution is an online resource hub called Transition Space.

“Transition Space is a website that will help youth with disabilities navigate the system in Ontario when they transition to adulthood,” says Charlotte Ogalesco, a recent Health Studies graduate. “Our website provides helpful resources on topics that are important to understand when transitioning, such as independent living, financial planning, healthcare services, and recreation."

In addition to helping clients transition to adulthood, the students are learning the value of collaborating directly with those who will use the tools.

William Nippard, a Computer Science graduate, joined the Work Innovation program as a result of volunteering with KidsAbility and credits its team with bringing an added layer of expertise to the program.

“KidsAbility has played an integral role,” says Nippard. “They’re some of the absolute best subject matter experts in the domain we’re working in, and they have passed on invaluable insights to the team.”

Nippard brings his technical expertise and experience with start-ups to the Transition Space project, but his main concern is to provide a meaningful tool for KidsAbility clients.

“I’ve worked with KidsAbility for a number of years now, including volunteering in-classroom, working directly with kids and instructors,” says Nippard. “I hope one day some of the kids I used to work with will find value in what we’re building.”

Creating impact for everyone involved

Although the Transition Space project has focused on KidsAbility in Southwestern Ontario, Kenny sees potential for expanding across the province and beyond.

“We’re building a bridge from the youth system to the adult system and working to ensure young people are equipped with skills and information. Transition Space can help position them for success,” says Kenny. “We're doing work here in Waterloo region, but the implications of this online tool reach across the province.”

While partners like KidsAbility gain valuable support and skills through the Workplace Innovation program, the students and alumni also benefit from working on a challenging and meaningful project.

“This particular program is an amazing opportunity that allows you to solve real problems from different organizations and create an impact in your community,” says Ogalesco. “It encourages creativity and teamwork when designing an impactful solution. It’s a great way to share your own skills, work on something you’re passionate about, and overall, work with amazing teams and mentors.”

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