Community Connections | Inclusion, Indigenous Peoples, Aging Population, Children And Youth
Wellness | Mental Health, Physical Health

Universal Rehabilitation Service Agency (URSA)

We develop and provide opportunities for children, adults, and seniors with developmental disabilities and brain injury survivors to attain a personal level of achievement and excellence in life.

Our Story

Why We Exist

Simon was born with a multitude of concerns immediately from birth. Due to a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain, Simon was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy along with a seizure and pain disorder. This diagnosis was life alternating, not only for Simon, but his parents, Liz and Andre.

Many questions went unanswered as only time would tell how Simon’s disability would affect his quality of life and the typical milestones of childhood development.

The first few years were difficult for both Simon and his parents. Many days were spent attempting to sooth Simon through constant holding and physical contact and distractions in the form of music. As he was unable to communicate his needs, wants or desires, Simon’s parents were left wondering what was causing their little boy to cry all day. Between working and caring for medically fragile child, the family was soon overwhelmed and their role of parents transitioned into the role of full time caregivers.

Simon’s health needs increased in complexity as did the amount of daily medications, supplements and personal care. Simon soon had an exhaustive list of medical professionals from surgeons, specialists, nurses, and physiotherapists. Simon’s parents continued to adapt to their son’s ever changing medical needs and learned to manage complex medical regimes.

Simon was unable to tolerate the use of a wheelchair, sleep independently or leave the family home. Simon’s parents spent many days and nights holding and rocking him, trying to take away their son’s discomfort and pain. Mentally, physically, and emotionally the overall family unit began to crumble. They were alone and afraid of the unknown for their son and family.

On September 1, 2012 Liz and Andre made the toughest decision of their lives and choose to have Simon permanently placed in care. For parents to make a decision like this for their five year old son was heartbreaking. They did not know if they were doing the right thing.

And then there was a break in the clouds. His parents no longer needed to be Simon’s nurses and caretakers. They only had to be one thing, his mom and dad.

Over a number of months, a routine was developed and a plan was set in place and as Simon became familiar with his various caregivers and environment, positive changes started to occur. With support and guidance, Simon’s parents continued transitioning into their role of mom and dad. They no longer were required to monitor, manage and implement Simon’s complex medications and care routines. They were able to focus on their son, family, and rebuilding personal relationships. Soon the family unit began to flourish.

Simon excelled in a multitude of areas both developmentally and physically. Simon now uses his wheelchair on a daily basis, sleeps alone and tolerates new, loud and what would have been overwhelming environments, strengthening his independence. Simon started exploring the city and participated in many events outside the home like the Calgary Zoo and swimming.

A milestone achievement was accomplished when Simon successfully completed his first year of school, attending fulltime, five days a week. Simon continues to amaze his parents and family as he reaches goals and truly demonstrates the level of excellence one can achieve in life. Simon’s parents continue to be heavily involved in his personal growth and development through their daily visits to the home. Through laughter, cuddling, music, and participation in family activities, the family is now truly thriving. This cannot be more evident as Simon recently became a big brother and welcomed the newest member to the family, his sister, Stella.

Simon continues to teach each individual he comes into contact with that love, happiness, and joy goes hand in hand with a child with a development disability. He has excelled both developmentally, physically and emotionally and will continue to accomplish goals his parents never dreamed were possible for him.

Our Impact

What We Do

Before 1985, it was common belief that individuals with disabilities could not survive in the community and would have to be placed in institutions. URSA challenged that belief and in 1985, opened five residential homes to 30 clients from Calgary’s Baker Centre. These five homes were just that, homes. These clients not only survive in the community setting, they thrive. URSA now has 16 homes in Calgary. The majority of these individuals have very significant and multiple disabilities including; requiring feeding, personal care support for bathing/ hygiene, and 24-hour staff support for all areas of life. One of these homes is URSA’s children’s home which provides care for those under 18 years old. Another is our Kootenay Lodge home, a home for at-risk aboriginal adults with disabilities.

  • In the early 90’s URSA expanded into brain injury services and developed Easy Street – an indoor city block with a diner, taxi cab, grocery store, beauty shop, bus, bank, and apartment. A safe place for clients to learn and relearn everyday skills.
  • URSA also has several day programs for our clients to attend. Clients are able to participate in any number of activities and outings including: crafting; gardening; swimming; visits to the zoo and TELUS Spark; day trips out of the city; etc. Anything our clients want to do, they go out and do it!
  • In 2009, URSA opened Camp URSA – a recreational facility out of the city that is fully wheelchair accessible. An opportunity for individuals with disabilities or a brain injury to escape the city and relax with family, friends, or caregivers. The wheelchair accessibility means that clients have no physical barriers and can enjoy the camp to the fullest. Camp URSA provides bedding, linen and meals to campers to help make the trip easier to plan and more enjoyable. It is a chance for clients to get out of the city and enjoy mother nature.

URSA continues to grow and develop and we currently have 23 programs including: 24/7 homes, day programs, brain injury service programs, a children’s home, an aboriginal home, and accessible camp. URSA makes it possible for individuals with disabilities to live and thrive in Calgary communities. We ensure not only the basic necessities for these individuals are provided, but go above and beyond ensuring individual goals and dreams are made a reality so that they can live the fullest life possible.

MISSION | To develop and provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to attain a personal level of achievement and excellence in life!

VISION | To provide an excellent service to individuals and their families to maximize quality of life in a “wholistic” manner.

Our Programs

How We Do It

URSA is continually in development; we currently have 23 programs including: 24/7 homes, day programs, brain injury service programs, a children’s home, an aboriginal home, and accessible camp. URSA makes it possible for individuals with disabilities to live and thrive in Calgary communities. We ensure not only the basic necessities for these individuals are provided, but go above and beyond ensuring individual goals and dreams are made a reality so that they can live the fullest life possible.

Developmental Disability Services

URSA provides 24 hour service to individuals living with developmental disabilities. This includes 23 programs throughout the city of Calgary. URSA works closely with outside agencies to ensure consistency between different environments. Programs focus on assisting individuals with meeting their personal goals, in both residential and community settings.


Brain Injury Services

URSA clients living with a brain injury are supported in a community based setting which promotes survivors to live an independently as possible. URSA also operates a day program for individuals living with a brain injury, that focuses on community participation to maintain their physical stamina as well as prevents social isolation.


Aboriginal Services

Kootenay Lodge is a vital supported housing program serving the most vulnerable and at-risk aboriginal clients. Kootenay Lodge provides supported and specialized housing for homeless aboriginal adults who live with severe disabilities.


Children’s Services

URSA’s Children Services home is a 3 bedroom residence that provides 2 rooms to permanent residents and the third room is fully booked for respite care. Children staying with us enjoy consistency in their school programs and participation in recreation and leisure programs.

Our Requests

What You Can Do

Supporting URSA is helping clients live a normal, everyday life, so they can live the fullest life they can. Together with our community, URSA changes people’s lives. This is a life-changing experience not only the individuals we serve, but for staff and volunteers as well. For 30 years, some people have never left their home or institution before coming to URSA.

Donations to URSA will directly benefit URSA clients. These items will all have a direct impact on URSA clients and will be used for items or experiences our clients may not be able to afford on their own. These include:

  • new bedroom furniture and bedding;
  • new clothes;
  • donations towards community outings (Calgary Zoo, museums);
  • accessible items in the home (such as an accessible swing);
  • sending clients to our W.O Mitchell Retreat Centre (;
  • sensory equipment;
  • arts and crafts; music therapy; etc.

Volunteer Opportunities

Meet Roger. Roger has been with URSA since Baker Centre closed, over 30 years ago. He came with a bag of clothes, some small personal items, and no friends or family connections.

Roger is non-verbal, in a wheelchair and is on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped); AISH covers his accommodations and food, but not much else. Roger likes the color green; actually that’s an understatement, Roger LOVES the color green. Last year a corporate volunteer group of 20 people came and did a “while you were out” day of caring. They redid four URSA client bedrooms, including Roger’s. They bought him new bedroom furniture, bedding, a new lamp, and art for his walls. They also painted his room (for the first time in over 20 years) a nice shade of, yes, green. Roger came home that afternoon and was shown his new room by his staff. No one was sure how he was going to react to his new room, especially with 20 strangers watching him. He paused at his door. He slowly rolled over to the newly painted green wall and very gently rubbed his hand along it. He smiled. It was quite evident that Roger was thrilled with his new room, filled with green.

You can change a life by the simplest donation of your time.

URSA’s While you Were Out campaigns are a great way to get involved and directly impact someone’s life, like Roger, and are perfect for team building. These can include:

  • Redoing a client room for them while they are out of the house (painting, new furniture, new bedding and lighting, etc.)


  • Yard cleanup and planting. All our homes require assistance with gardening and yard cleaning every spring and fall. Our clients greatly enjoy getting in the dirt and assisting in making their yards summer ready.

Other volunteer opportunities include:

  • Joining our brain injury clients on their Rehab on the Mountain trips. Three trips to the mountains happen each year with 10 clients. Volunteers can spend the day with clients helping them participate in the multitude of activities including: skiing, white water rafting, hiking, horse back riding, dog sledding, and more!


  • Helping URSA put on events for our clients including: Stampede Bar-B-Q, URSA Games, and the Client Christmas Party. Volunteers can help make and serve food to clients and participate in the fun!


  • Spending one-on-one time with clients. This can include: reading to them, playing board games, arts & crafts, swimming, joining them at the Talisman Centre – whatever your interests are, our clients are interested too.

The possible volunteer opportunities are endless and make great team building activities. Please contact URSA for more information on these options and see what a difference a day makes in the lives of our clients. Let us know what your skills are and how you would like to volunteer – Contact us at (403) 272-7722 or email us through:

Stay Connected


Danielle Murphy

Universal Rehabilitation Service Agency (URSA)


Charitable Number: 108160904RR0001

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