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A profile of Canadians with a mobility disability and groups designated as visible minorities with a disability

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Released: 2020-12-03

Results from the 2017 Canadian Survey of Disability (CSD) have shown that over half of Canadians with a mobility disability need at least one workplace accommodation. Among population groups designated as visible minorities who have a disability, one-quarter considered themselves to be disadvantaged in employment because of their condition.

With the passing of the Accessible Canada Act in 2019, there has been an increased focus on removing barriers and improving accessibility for the 6.2 million Canadians with disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the barriers that those with disabilities experience on a regular basis. Additionally, COVID-19 has highlighted the unique experiences and difficulties faced by certain population groups, such as groups designated as visible minorities, Indigenous people or sexual minorities. Diversity, inclusion and the need for disaggregated data on vulnerable populations have all become important topics of conversation.

In recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Statistics Canada is releasing three new data products based on findings from the 2017 CSD. Although these data predate the pandemic, they provide insight on the challenges persons with disabilities encounter and potential areas where the pandemic has intensified these challenges. One infographic focuses on disabilities related to mobility and another takes a look at visible minorities with disabilities. In addition, two data tables, on industry and occupation of those with and without disabilities, are now available.

Older Canadians are more likely to have a mobility disability

Almost 2.7 million people or 1 in 10 Canadians aged 15 and older had a mobility disability in 2017, making it one of the most common disability types. The prevalence of this type of disability varied by sex and age group. Women (11.2%) were more likely than men (7.9%) to have a disability related to mobility. The likelihood of having a mobility disability increased with age, with the highest proportion among those aged 65 years and older (24.1%). The average age at which a person with a mobility disability begins to feel limited in their daily activities is 55, which is later than most disability types.

Over half of those with a mobility disability need a workplace accommodation

There are many measures and tools that can increase accessibility for persons with disabilities. Having access to the necessary supports can help persons with disabilities participate more fully in society. Workplace accommodations can help decrease barriers and create a more accessible work environment. In 2017, over half (57.4%) of employed Canadians with mobility disabilities aged 25 to 64 said that they required one or more workplace accommodations to be able to work.

Aids and assistive devices are tools designed or adapted to help those with disabilities perform particular tasks or activities in their day-to-day life. The most commonly reported devices used by those with mobility disabilities were a bathroom aid, such as grab bars (37.9%), a cane, walking stick or crutches (36.5%), or a walk-in bath or shower (20.1%).

Lack of accessible transportation is an issue for one in five housebound Canadians with a mobility disability

Previous analysis shows that more than 770,000 Canadians with disabilities were unable to leave their home due to their condition or health problem. Most of these individuals have a mobility disability, with over half a million (540,000) considering themselves housebound due to their condition. Among housebound persons with mobility disabilities, about one-fifth (19.7%) said it was due to a lack of accessible transportation.

Many Canadians with a mobility disability have unmet needs for physiotherapy, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments

Persons with disabilities may have additional or more complex needs for health care services and therapies. The most commonly required health care services for Canadians with a mobility disability were physiotherapy, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments. However, among those who required these services, almost three-quarters (72.0%) had an unmet need. Access to health care and social service providers, and the extent to which these services meet their needs, are important in the overall health status of persons with disabilities. In the context of COVID-19, previous analysis indicates that unmet needs for services and therapies continues to be an issue for persons with disabilities.

South Asians account for the largest share of visible minorities with disabilities

Recent analysis shows that groups designated as visible minorities report greater economic and health impacts from COVID-19 as well as experiencing discrimination and increased race-based harassment. Many of these vulnerabilities existed before the pandemic but have been magnified in recent months. Visible minorities with disabilities may face an even more complex set of challenges and it is important to better understand this intersectionality.

Among persons with disabilities aged 15 and older, 14.3% were also a member of a group designated as a visible minority. When broken down by visible minority group, the highest proportions of persons with disabilities were among South Asian (4.0%), followed by Chinese (2.9%), Black (2.2%), Filipino (1.3%) and Latin American (1.0%). The proportion among the sexes was similar, with 13.9% of men and 14.5% of women with disabilities also belonging to a visible minority group.

Half of visible minorities with disabilities have work potential

Persons with disabilities have lower rates of employment than those without disabilities. Half (49.9%) of non-employed visible minorities with disabilities aged 25 to 64 had potential for paid employment in an inclusive labour market, that is, one without discrimination, with full accessibility and accommodation. By way of comparison, just over one-third of non-visible minorities with disabilities (37.3%) had work potential. In 2017, around one-quarter (24.2%) of visible minorities with disabilities considered themselves to be disadvantaged in employment because of their condition.

Almost one-third of visible minorities who have a disability feel their work does not match their qualifications

Visible minorities with disabilities aged 25 to 64 were almost twice as likely to have a bachelor's degree or higher (33.9%) than non-visible minorities with disabilities (17.3%). These results are consistent with previous research, which shows that visible minorities are more likely to have a university degree than their non-visible minority counterparts. Additionally, almost one-third (32.4%) of employed visible minorities with a disability said that their work does not give them the opportunity to use all of their education, skills or work experience.

  Note to readers

The 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability provides comprehensive data on persons with disabilities by province and territory and age group, as well as disability types and severity of the disability. The survey population comprised Canadians aged 15 years and older as of the 2016 Census of Population (May 10, 2016) and living in private dwellings.

Data for visible minority status were obtained from the 2016 Census of Population. 'Visible minority' refers to whether a person belongs to a visible minority group as defined by the Employment Equity Act and, if so, the visible minority group to which the person belongs. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean and Japanese.

Those who were officially unemployed or who were not in the labour force but stated they would be looking for work in the next 12 months, were classified as having work potential. Those who stated they were "completely retired," those who said their condition completely prevented them from working and that no workplace accommodation existed that would enable them to work, and those who were housebound, were classified as not being potential workers.


The infographic "Canadians with a mobility disability," is now available as part of the series Statistics Canada — Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M).

The infographic "The Visible Minority Population with a Disability in Canada: Employment and Education," is now available as part of the series Statistics Canada — Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M).

Contact information

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