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Disability Supports and Services

Support individuals with disabilities to achieve their goals for full and enriched lives.

A disability support worker smiles as two people show her an artistic project they are working on.
Start Date:
Typical Length:
2 Years

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$5,000 bursary for Disability Supports and Services students

You are eligible for a $5,000 bursary, if you are a Canadian or permanent resident, and agree to work with Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services’ Disability Support Program for one year upon graduation. Further details are provided after successful admissions to the program.


This program gives you the skills to remove barriers for people and support them in maximizing their strengths and full potential.

You learn:

  • How to apply a social model of disability to address barriers and support community inclusion
  • Knowledge of various disabilities and specific strategies for supporting them
  • The philosophy and skills you need to empower your clients to live as independently as they can
  • An understanding of your professional, legal and ethical responsibilities as a support worker in this field
  • How to work effectively in teams by increasing self-awareness and practicing effective communication skills

Work experience

  • Field experience is a mandatory credit course, providing the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills outside the classroom.
    • Opportunities are typically unpaid and last approximately 5 weeks.
  • Transportation, accommodations and other costs related to work experience courses are your responsibility.
  • For more information, visit work experience opportunities.
  • International students - all international students require a co-op work permit; you can't complete your NSCC program without one. This program also requires a medical exam to receive your co-op work permit. View co-op work permit - medical exam details.

Choose NSCC

  • You receive the core competencies and skills required by the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services to work within the disability supports and services field.
  • You benefit from our expert faculty, who bring years of experience to the classroom and strong connections to the community.
  • Hands-on, community-based learning is a cornerstone of the program.

Other info

  • Employers in this sector require one or all of the following as part of the hiring process: a current, official criminal record check and vulnerable sector check and a child abuse register check. A conviction or finding in family court may impact your ability to secure employment.
  • This industry requires you to work shift work, including evenings, nights and weekends. This role may be physically demanding and include moving and lifting others as well as spending long periods of time on your feet.


September 2024

Campus Full time/part time Delivery Availability
Kingstec Campus
Full time In person
Delivered in-person. Some courses may have online elements.
Seats available
Sydney Waterfront Campus
Full time In person
Delivered in-person. Some courses may have online elements.
Seats available

September 2025

Campus Full time/part time Delivery Availability
Lunenburg Campus
Full time In person
Delivered in-person. Some courses may have online elements.
Seats available

Admission requirements

Program requirements

  • A current, official criminal record check and vulnerable sector check are required to complete work placements in many programs. A conviction may impact your ability to complete program requirements.
  • All programs in Health and Human Services require First Aid/CPR as a graduation requirement. For specific program requirements, view additional Health and Human Services program requirements
  • Many Health and Human Services programs have additional requirements, including immunizations. You must submit proof that you've completed these requirements by the date provided to you at the beginning of your program. View additional Health and Human Services program requirements
    • Receiving immunizations may take up to 10 months to complete.
    • Failure to complete immunizations can result in a delayed work placement, which will impact your ability to complete program and graduation requirements.
  • Portfolio development – As part of your studies at NSCC, you develop a portfolio of your work; the portfolio captures your achievements and profiles your skills to employers.


Tuition amounts are for the 2024-25 academic year. Program costs and fees (textbooks, supplies, etc.) are additional.

Tuition (Domestic):
Tuition (International):

Tuition, fees and program costs

$5,000 bursary – You are eligible for the bursary if you are a Canadian or permanent resident, and agree to work with Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services’ Disability Support Program for one year upon graduation. Further details are provided after successful admissions to the program.

In addition to annual tuition, there are program costs (books, tools, etc.) and student fees for College services, health and dental plans, your student association and parking.

View detailed program fees page(s). Please note that amounts on these pages are meant for planning purposes only. They don't represent final amounts owing.

Career options

  • Employment options include a variety of ways to help people live full and enriched lives. You may:
    • Work with persons with disabilities to enhance their physical, emotional and psychological well-being
    • Support and empower people in maximizing their strengths and achieving their goals
    • Play an important role in removing barriers to inclusion
  • Graduates find employment in group homes, small options facilities, community and independent living settings, vocational centres, employment supports, education and recreation/leisure.

Future study options

Courses may include

These are some of the courses offered in this program. It is not a complete list and courses are subject to change in advance of the academic year.

Recognizing prior learning / transfer credits
If you have previous learning (course, employment, etc...) that's relevant to your program, you may be able to apply to earn credit. Not all programs are eligible. Learn about our recognizing prior learning (RPL) process.

DSSP 1010 - Foundations of Inclusive Practice
The content of this course is based on the concept of full citizenship as outlined in the principles of the present UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The historical, present and future applications of disability support will be explored. Students will learn about legislature, policies and programs related to inclusion, the practice of reciprocity and full citizenship for children and adults living with disabilities. Local programs and services will be explored in the context of developing a strong foundational knowledge of the disability support field.

DSSP 1012 - Introduction to Disabilities
This course introduces the learner to neurodevelopmental disorders including: intellectual, developmental and physical/disease related disabilities across the life span. Learners will also identify the common barriers experienced by persons living with disabilities and exploring support strategies that encourage independence.

DSSP 1013 - Introduction to Professional Practice
This course introduces the student to the concept of professional behaviours. The student will engage in a self-assessment process and demonstrate professional behaviours in the classroom setting.

DSSP 1014 - Interpersonal Skills
This course introduces the learner to effective interpersonal communication. Effective communication is examined as a process and a skill. Factors that influence effective communication are considered. The necessity of a positive attitude is examined as well as the importance of empathy in a service-based relationship. The course provides the learner with the necessary communication skills to work effectively as a member of the support team. The learner will explore relationship building and maintenance skills, building working relationships, and managing relationship conflict.

DSSP 1015 - Principles of Learning I
Students will be introduced to behavioural terminology and the principles of learning. Students will learn and apply behavioural strategies that support empowerment using a multidisciplinary approach.

DSSP 1020 - Supporting Activities of Daily Living
Using the philosophical foundations of disability support, this course will prepare students to safely support individuals in activities of daily living and personal care following a person-directed approach.

DSSP 1021 - Introduction to Mental Health
This course introduces the learner to the concepts of mental health and the components of a health-enhancing lifestyle. Learners will be invited to reflect on their own experience of health, barriers to healthy choices and resources that may impact on their wellbeing. The learner will examine biological and psychological factors related to mental health and illness, ranging from functional to dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours. Current theories, therapies and intervention strategies are explored.

DSSP 1023 - Cultural Humility and Professional Ethics
Students examine and apply their personal values in the context of their professional obligations and ethical standards. Topics such as diversity, cultural humility, and cultural competence are explored from a self-assessment perspective.

DSSP 1026 - Therapeutic Communication and Documentation
This course focuses on specific theory and practical skills in communication related to supporting persons with disabilities. Students will examine various techniques for supportive communication, as well as special considerations related to the disability support field. Students will also build skills in areas including but not limited to, rapport building, informed decision making, language and capacity building, supporting change behaviours, conflict management and crisis intervention techniques. Students will also become familiar with the legal and practical implications of documentation. Learners will gain practical skills using objective and goal directed language while completing various types of documentation related to the field.

DSSP 1050 - Practicum I
This practicum provides learners with an opportunity to apply classroom theory and skills to the field of disability supports. To assist the learner in gaining an understanding and experience in the full scope of their role, they will support individuals in carrying out activities of daily living. This includes residential, employment support, educational and/or community based environments.

DSSP 2013 - Advocacy and Leadership
This course develops professional conduct, leadership, allyship and advocacy competencies to prepare students for their role in the field. Students will develop skills in system advocacy and supporting self-advocacy in the persons with disabilities.

DSSP 2014 - Assistive Technologies and Communication Strategies
This course examines various assistive technologies and alternative communication strategies used in supporting individuals.

DSSP 2015 - Principles of Learning II
Students will develop, apply and evaluate a variety of behavioural change strategies for individuals with disabilities in a wide range of settings. Students will be able to support, implement, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of behavioural supports programs within their scope of practice utilizing an interdisciplinary approach.

DSSP 2016 - Introduction to Life Planning
Students will be introduced to the basic philosophy and concepts of person-directed life planning. The student will learn to support others in their move towards full community inclusion through the exploration of personal choices.

DSSP 2017 - Nutrition and Meal Preparation
Learners will gain an understanding of basic nutrition in order to promote a healthy lifestyle for the persons they support. Learners will develop skills in supporting others in cooking, budgeting and meal planning. Special dietary needs as well as feeding procedures will also be explored.

DSSP 2018 - Supporting Inclusive Employment
This course explores challenges related to employment for persons living with disabilities. Students explore barriers and develop strategies for supporting an inclusive working environment, including skill and competency development as well as utilizing advocacy skills.

DSSP 2019 - Medication and Drug Awareness
This course introduces the learner to prescription and over the counter drugs. Learners will gain an understanding of the effects of drug use and abuse instrumentally and/or recreationally and apply that understanding to individual centred planning. Drug interactions, reactions, support strategies and documentation in community settings are explored.

DSSP 2023 - Professional Practice: Employment Readiness
Students will apply previous learning from coursework and practicum to the development of employment readiness skills, such as: interviewing skills and the development of resumes and cover letters. Professional development and various employment environments will also be explored.

DSSP 2025 - Managing Responsive Behaviours
This course will include topics of proactive and reactive strategies in dealing with disruptive behaviour and ecological variables that impact on client behaviour. Students will become familiar with selecting verbal responses appropriate to the client’s level of disturbance as well as identifying when a physical response is required to ensure the safety of client (s) and staff. Students will also examine ways to support individuals with disabilities so they can meet the challenge of decision-making in a positive way while addressing conflict as it arises in daily situations and circumstances.

DSSP 2026 - Facilitating Life Planning
Learners will synthesize and apply their knowledge of person directed planning to support individuals toward full community inclusion through the exploration of personal choices.

DSSP 2028 - Aging with Disabilities
This course provides the student with the opportunity to examine issues related to aging and disability. Students will examine characteristics of aging unique to the disability population. Strategies for supporting aged persons with disability will be explored. Government plans for positive aging and aging with disabilities will be reviewed.

DSSP 2029 - Sexuality with Disabilities
This course provides the learner with the opportunity to examine the ways that disability and sexuality intersect. Historical and current practices, beliefs and attitudes about the sexuality of people with disabilities will be explored along with strategies for teaching and supporting safe sexual expression. There will be a focus on the role of the disability support worker in promoting sexual wellbeing and person-directed decision making in issues regarding sexuality.

DSSP 2050 - Practicum II
This second practicum provides learners with an opportunity to continue to apply classroom theory and skills to the field of disability supports. Students will reflect upon and integrate the knowledge and skills acquired in the program to date to this new setting. Throughout the practicum, the student will engage in skills based self-evaluation to plan opportunities for professional growth.

DSSP 2055 - Practicum III
This placement provides learners with an opportunity for synthesis and application of knowledge, skills and competencies identified in their program outcomes. The learner will complete the practicum under the guidance of a mentor. It will be a transitional period where the learner will gradually move into the role of a disability supports worker within a multidisciplinary team.

GDEV 1025 - Developmental Psychology
This course examines the expected growth and developmental patterns of individuals from conception through to oldest old. The emphasis is on the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of development.

SAFE 1000 - Introduction to WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems)
This course offers learners basic overview of WHMIS principles and establishes a solid foundation to support workplace-specific training on the safe storage and handling of controlled/hazardous products. Upon successful completion of the course, students receive basic WHMIS certification.

SAFE 1001 - Introduction to NS OH&S Act
This course offers students an introduction to the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act of Nova Scotia, which is required by any person employed in a Nova Scotia workplace. This is a generic, introductory course that provides basic knowledge of the Act for students and is considered to be the basis from which more specific training can be given.

SOCS 1001 - Introduction to Psychology
This survey course will introduce students to the scientific study of human behaviour and mental processes. It will explore its goals, theoretical perspectives, research and applications. It will challenge students to make connections between areas of study and their everyday experience.

SOCS 1005 - Writing Skills for Social Service Practice I
Effective written communication skills are a necessary component for success in the social services environment where transparency, accountability and integrity are core values connected to providing service for others. This one semester course is designed to afford the student the opportunity to develop the skills required to manage information and prepare documents used in the social services field.

SOCS 2025 - Introduction to Grant Proposal Writing
Social and recreation service delivery is dependent on grants, contracts or contributions to program funding. Learners will explore the structure and processes required to develop a successful grant proposal for projects associated with recreation and social services delivery.

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