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Social Issues
12 Facts And Figures About Having A Disability In Canada
December 3, 2013
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(Mark Blinch/Reuters) 

December 3 marks the United Nation's International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an opportunity to examine the physical, social, economic and attitudinal barrier that nearly a billion people around the world face every day. The theme this year is “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all” — and judging by the Canadian statistics, this country still has a ways to go before reaching that goal. Below, some of the facts and figures regarding the challenges that Canadians with disabilities face.

13.7 per cent of Canadians live with a disability

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability released today by Statistics Canada, about 3.8 million working-age Canadians (aged 15 to 64) self-identified as disabled in 2012. That's 13.7 per cent of us. Nearly one in 10 working-age Canadians reported having a disability in 2012. In 2006, the Canadian Human Rights Commission reported that 4.4 million Canadians live with a disability. If we're talking globally, more than one billion people (15 per cent of the world population) live with some form of disability, according to the United Nations.

Disabilities aren't always so obvious

The 10 disability types idenfitied in the latest Canadian Survey on Disability study are: seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, developmental, mental/psychological, and memory. Many disabilities are not visible. These so-called "hidden disabilities" still affect a large swath of Canadians. For example, the Learning Disability Association of Canada estimates that one in 10 Canadians has a learning disability.

There's a real education gap

Proportionately, adults with disabilities were only about half as likely to get their university-level degrees as adults without disabilities, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (20.2 per cent vs. 40.7 per cent, respectively).

There are significant wage gaps, too

Adults with disabilities generally have lower median household incomes than adults without disabilities, according to a 2012 CRHC report. Disabled men in the 15-to-64 age group earn $9,557 less than adult males in the same age group who don't have disabilities. Women between the ages of 15 to 64 earn $8,853 less.

More people with disabilities are underemployed

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 8.6 per cent, according to 2006 statistics, versus the Canadian average of 6.3 per cent. Overall, 8.5 per cent more men with disabilities are settling for part-time work because they cannot find full-time employment, compared to adult men without disabilities who are working part-time hours, according to a 2012 CRHC report. Proportionately, 6.5 per cent more women with disabilities work part-time but want to work full-time.

Many companies aren't hiring people with disabilities

Only three in 10 small business owners hired people with disabilities in 2013, matching levels from the previous year, according to a recent survey from BMO Financial Group. The study, released last month, found that the majority of small businesses (69 per cent) have never hired a person with a visible or invisible disability.

Bosses report being happy with disabled hires

Despite the lack of opportunity for disabled candidates, more than three-quarters of the employers surveyed by BMO in 2012 said that after recruiting disabled workers, the hires either met their expectations (62 per cent) or exceeded them (15 per cent). 

Canadians recognize there's a problem with inclusion

According to 2004 Environics research, just 10 per cent of Canadians believe people with disabilities are fully included in society. The majority of Canadians also want to help improve the lives of people with disabilities and agree the social benefit is worth the cost.

1.4 million disabled adults need daily assistance

More than 1.4 million working-age adults (15 to 64) reported needing help with everyday physical activities in 2006, according to Statistics Canada.

Nearly half of Canadians believe in a hiring bias against disabled people

Could hiding a disability from a propsective employer boost a candidate's chances of getting hired? A 2012 BMO study suggests that almost half of Canadians believe that could be the case, with 48 per cent of all respondents saying that they believe candidates could be more likely to climb the corporate ladder if they kept their disability under wraps.

Many Canadians can't read

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind estimated in 2011 that more than three million Canadians have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible to read conventional print.

Disabled students are eligible for special loans

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students has a website that lists information about awards and scholarships specifically for students with disabilities. The site is designed to make it easier for disabled students to search for relevant bursaries.

Last night on the show, Brooke Nevin told a story about Canada's contributions to the electric wheelchair:

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