Canadians and Disabilities: The Numbers and the Future

Canadians and Disabilities: The Numbers and the Future

A study from Statistics Canada that came out a few years ago showed nearly 4.4 million people in Canada have a disability, whether a physical or mental condition, that restricts their activities and affects their daily living.

Those numbers reflect a high 16% of adults with a disability and over 3.5% of children. Out of these statistics 35% report only a mild daily living limitation, while 25% say they experience a moderate limitation and the largest percentage – 40% – report serious and difficult limitations.

Every province in Canada has reported an increase since 2002, though there are provincial variations in numbers, with Quebec being relatively low and Nova Scotia being quite high. Over 700,000 have reported a new disability within the last five years.

The high jump in numbers is being contributed to the fact that people are less ashamed and less likely to hide their disabilities than they were in previous years, especially learning disabilities. With growing support, activism and assistance for disability rights, people feel more comfortable admitting their limitations. The fact that the population is aging and that better data collection is available also play a role in the climbing numbers.

The types of disabilities varied greatly with the age groups: the elderly reported more mobility limitations, middle-aged Canadians reported more chronic pain and children’s disabilities were related mostly to chronic conditions such as autism and asthma.

Surprisingly, developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorders and Cerebral Palsy had declined, while Learning Disabilities (LD) such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia and Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders showed an escalation.

The statistics are distressing for many organizations and institutions working to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities. While the disabled population is growing, so are their service and health care needs. Despite growing interest in and support for disability rights, many aren’t getting the services and care they need, from jobs and wheelchairs, to accessible communities.

Though it is a positive turn of events that disabled people are speaking out about their physical and mental limitations, Canada still has a long way to go to build awareness that can set forth practical solutions to support their growing disabled community.