Plan Institute – Reflecting on 20 years

A lot has changed over the last 20 years at Plan Institute, but one thing that has remained constant is our commitment to improving the lives of those living with disabilities.

We are a small, non-profit organization that works passionately to make a significant difference in the landscape of disability in this country. Over the past 20 years, Plan Institute has worked with countless individuals, families and community groups, formed eight affiliate organizations across Canada, held numerous retreats, published books, and has offered a variety of workshops – all with the goal of sharing our values and, ultimately, helping people with disabilities and their families live a good life both now and into the future.

What sets Plan Institute apart is our dedication to a deep and impactful collaboration between families, service providers, and government agencies. Leaders, past and present, have prioritized these relationships and have enabled us to break down barriers and work alongside our stakeholders to bring meaningful change to our shared goals.

When we look back over the last 20 years, here are some of the projects that we are most proud of:

Disability Planning HelplineA toll-free helpline where our family experts answer questions about the Disability Tax Credit, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, estate planning, advocacy approaches, government benefit programs, social network building and more. 1-844-311-7526

Safe and Secure: Seven Steps on the Path to a Good Life for People with DisabilitiesThis disability planning guide, written by Al Etmanski, with Jack Collins and Vickie Cammack, has been translated into 11 languages, with 6 editions, and over 100,000 copies have been distributed.

ImpactAbility – We hosted a webinar series facilitated by Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack, celebrating the “impact-ability” of people in the disability movement, and featuring interviews with seven inspirational change-makers. 979 viewers tuned in for this series.

Expanding the Personal Support Network Model  We have partnered with PLAN over the years to support organizations as they explored the Personal Support Network model, and expanded their capacity to support individuals and families. Our projects have included working with a group in North Carolina called FIRST, which has focused on creating a statewide movement to enhance natural supports for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well the Here & Now Community Society, which focused on supporting individuals and families affected by disability within the Korean-Canadian community.

Tyze – This online, private community was developed to centre around one person, where families, friends, neighbours and health professionals can work together to ensure continuity of care. Once this platform was created, it became its own stand alone company.

Future Planning Tool – This partnership between Prosper Canada, Pooran Law and Ability Tax & Trust built an online tool to help simplify and guide individuals through the steps of planning for a good life, including financial security, personal network building, estate planning, housing choices and supported decision-making.

Education & Retreats

  • Caregivers Retreat – Every year, we host a retreat where family caregivers are invited to come relax, connect with other caregivers, and spend some time taking care of themselves. So far, 107 caregivers have attended one of our seven retreats. 
  • Personal Support Network Facilitation Course – An online course that shares PLAN’s proven approach to building networks of support around individuals who are isolated due to disability, illness or old age. It provides professionals and caregivers with the skills and knowledge to build networks of support around the people they work with. To date, we have facilitated 41 courses with 479 participants.
  • Wills, Trusts, & Estates Workshop – This long-time running workshop is taught by a disability lawyer and a family member, who provide participants with information about preparing a will if they have a loved-one with a disability. Overall, we have hosted 92 workshops with 844 attendees.
  • Wills, Trusts, & Estates Webinar – In 2017 we took the content of the in-person workshop and transformed it into a webinar in order to reach a broader audience and larger geographical region. To date, we have reached 206 people with over 12 sessions.

The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) Since the inception of the RDSP, we have been at the forefront of engaging in education, outreach, awareness, and support of this one of a kind program. 

  • Access RDSPThis program is a partnership between BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS), Disability Alliance BC (DABC), and Plan Institute, designed to spread awareness and help people become informed, become eligible, and open an RDSP. Since its inception in 2016, we have provided direct one-to-one support to 4,604 people, reached 7,424 people through information sessions, and distributed $306,450 in grants. 
  • Amendments to RDSP policy – The RDSP Action Group, of which Plan Institute is a member, is pleased to see that some of the significant recommendations made to the Federal Government and the Disability Advisory Committee to streamline and improve the RSDP have been adopted. These changes that are to be implemented in 2020 are as follows: 
    • Removal of the limitation on the period that an RDSP may remain open after a beneficiary becomes ineligible for the disability tax credit (DTC). 
    • Elimination of  the requirement for medical certification that the beneficiary is likely to become eligible for the DTC in the future in order for the plan to remain open. 
    • In addition to these changes, the government also proposed that amounts held in RDSPs be exempt from seizure in bankruptcy, with the exception of contributions made in the 12 months before filing. This change would align the rules governing RDSPs to those of RRSPs.
    • Many additional recommendations have been put forward, we are hopeful that some, if not all, of these will eventually find their way into enhancing the RDSP to further improve the lives of those who have the DTC and an RDSP.


Of course, we would not have been able to do all of this meaningful and impactful work without the visionary initiative of our founders and the determined first board who set the course for Plan Institute. The many achievements we have accomplished over the past 20 years would also not have been possible without the unwavering support of our amazing board members, staff, advocates, subscribers, and families who have contributed in immeasurable ways.

We look forward to continuing to collaborate with all of the amazing individuals and organizations who work to drive the disability movement forward. We will continue to find ways to contribute to improving the lives of those living with differing abilities, and help to ensure that their voices are at the forefront of the movement.

Thank you, sincerely, for all of your support.