VILA: Virtual inclusive learning academy

One in every 33 people has an intellectual disability, a condition that makes it hard for them to find and keep a job, make friends and live independently. Additionally, many programs and services that could help adults with intellectual disabilities in the labour market are not accessible or affordable for them. To address this, Developing and Nurturing Independence (DANI) created the Virtual Learning Academy (VILA), an online vocational training and social engagement hub.

Launched in March 2021, the VILA hub helped adults with intellectual disabilities in different parts of Ontario, offering life skills, academic and job training, and work opportunities. Focusing on individuals and culture, it also helped them make connections, find jobs and counteract social isolation and poverty.

Student participating in online course at home with laptop on dining table.

The 32 participants in the pilot program said it was easy to use and relevant for them. It helped them learn more about job-related skills, such as how to choose a career, talk to others and fit in at a work environment.

Results from the VILA Hub pilot show promise for creating supports for people with intellectual disabilities by making them more socially comfortable, confident and independent. However, due to the lack of comparison groups, we don’t know to what extent the program contributed to these changes.

For service providers offering, or considering providing, virtual employment-related programs and services to adults with intellectual disabilities, this project showcases what it takes to run an effective program from the selection and development of the curriculum, choice of technology partner to provide the platform, and user-testing necessary to improve the experience.

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