Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012
Flexibility disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years and older, 2012

by Christine Bizier, Gail Fawcett and Sabrina Gilbert

Release date: July 5, 2016
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The results presented in this fact sheet are from the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), which surveyed residents of private dwellings who reported an activity limitation and who were aged 15 years and older at the time of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

According to the CSD, respondents are considered to have a disability only if they report a difficulty or impairment due to a long-term condition or health problem and they report that they are limited in their daily activities as a result of their condition. Appendix A describes how the CSD defines flexibility disabilities.

It should be noted that the population living in institutions, including residential care facilities, was not included in the 2012 CSD. Further details are available in the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guide: 89-654-X2014001.

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According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), 3,775,900 (13.7%) Canadians aged 15 years and older reported some type of disability, and 2,078,000 of these individuals (or 7.6% of all Canadian adults) were identified as having a flexibility disability that limited them in their daily activities (Table 1). The most prevalent underlying condition reported by those with flexibility disabilities was arthritis.

Table 1
Prevalence of disability by type, among adults aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012
Table summary
This table displays the results of Prevalence of disability by type. The information is grouped by Disability type (appearing as row headers), Population and Percentage (appearing as column headers).
Disability type Population Percentage
Total disability 3,775,900 13.7
Pain-related 2,664,200 9.7
Flexibility 2,078,000 7.6
Mobility 1,971,800 7.2
Mental health-related 1,059,600 3.9
Dexterity 953,100 3.5
Hearing 874,600 3.2
Seeing 756,300 2.8
Memory 628,200 2.3
Learning 622,300 2.3
Developmental 160,500 0.6
Unknown 79,500 0.3

As with disability in general, the likelihood of having flexibility disabilities increased substantially with age—ranging from a prevalence rate of 1.0% for adults aged 15 to 24 to a rate of 19.3% for those aged 65 and older (Chart 1).

Overall, the prevalence of flexibility disabilities was slightly higher for women than men.

Chart 1 Prevalence of flexibility disabilities and total disabilities by age group, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), Flexibility disabilities and Total disabilities, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group Flexibility disabilities Total disabilities
percent
15 to 24 years 1.0 4.4
25 to 44 years 2.8 6.5
45 to 64 years 9.8 16.1
65 years and older 19.3 33.2

Multiple disabilities

Flexibility disability frequently co-occurred with other types of disability: 96.0% of those with flexibility disabilities also reported at least one other type of disability in 2012. Mobility disabilities and pain-related disabilities co-occurred with flexibility disabilities more often than any other type of disability regardless of age.

Chart 2 Prevalence of co-occurring disability types among adults with a flexibility disability, by age group, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Co-occurring disability (appearing as row headers), Developmental, Learning, Mental health-related, Mobility, Seeing/Hearing, Dexterity, Memory and Pain-related, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Developmental Learning Mental health-related Mobility Seeing/Hearing Dexterity Memory Pain-related
percent
15 to 24 years 31.5Note E: Use with caution 50.0 53.5 65.8 28.7Note E: Use with caution 37.5Note E: Use with caution 29.9Note E: Use with caution 77.0
25 to 64 years 3.9Note E: Use with caution 22.9 40.6 68.9 36.1 39.6 22.3 88.2
65 years and older 2.0Note E: Use with caution 12.9 17.9 78.0 43.9 34.9 20.2 77.4

Education

Educational attainment

Adults with flexibility disabilities had overall lower levels of educational attainment than those who did not have any type of disability. For example, adults aged 15 to 64 who were not in school and who reported a flexibility disability were more likely than those without any type of disability to have not completed high school (21.8% versus 13.1%). This pattern was particularly pronounced among those aged 15 to 44 with flexibility disabilities, who were more than twice as likely to have not completed high school, compared with those without any type of disability. For example, slightly over one-half (55.3%) of young adults aged 15 to 24 with flexibility disabilities had not completed high school at the time of the survey, compared to just about one-fourth (25.4%) of their counterparts who did not have any disability. In the 25 to 44 age group, the rates were 20.4% for those with flexibility disabilities and 9.5% for those without any disabilities.Note 1

Similarly, those aged 15 to 64 with a flexibility disability were less likely (48.5%) than their counterparts without a disability (61.1%) to have completed postsecondary qualifications.Note 2

Chart 3 Proportion of the population with a flexibility disability compared to those without any disability by highest level of education, aged 15 to 64 years, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 3
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Level of education (appearing as row headers), With a flexibility disability and Without any disability, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Level of education With a flexibility disability Without any disability
percent
Less than high school 21.8 13.1
High school 29.7 25.8
Postsecondary 48.5 61.1

Educational experiences

In the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), adults with a disability who were currently or had recently been in school were asked a series of questions about their educational experiences and how their condition or conditions may have affected these experiences. More than half of the adults with a flexibility disability reported that their condition(s) had influenced their choice of courses/careers (Table 2).

Table 2
Effect of disability on educational experiences of adults with a flexibility disability, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012
Table summary
This table displays the results of Effect of disability on educational experiences of adults with a flexibility disability. The information is grouped by Effect of disability (appearing as row headers), Percentage (appearing as column headers).
Effect of disability Percentage
Choice of courses/career influenced by disability 57.8
Went back to school for retraining due to disability 44.0
Took fewer courses due to disability 42.1
Took longer to achieve current level due to disability 39.0
Education interrupted due to disability 37.9
Changed course of studies due to disability 35.1

Employment

Labour force status

More than half (54.9%) of adults aged 15 to 64 with a flexibility disability were not in the labour force, and another 6.1% were unemployed.Note 3

The employment rate of working-age adults, aged 15 to 64, with flexibility disabilities was 39.1%, which is slightly over half the employment rate of those aged 15 to 64 who did not have any type of disability (73.6%). Men with flexibility disabilities were more likely to be employed than their female counterparts (43.6% versus 35.4%).

In each age group, those without any disability were roughly twice as likely to be employed as those with a flexibility disability. This pattern was more pronounced in the youngest and oldest age groups (Chart 4).

Chart 4 Employment rates of adults with a flexibility disability and adults without any disability, by age group, aged 15 to 64 years, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 4
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), 15 to 24 years , 25 to 34 years, 35 to 44 years, 45 to 54 years and 55 to 64 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  15 to 24 years 25 to 34 years 35 to 44 years 45 to 54 years 55 to 64 years
percent
With a flexibility disability 23.1Note E: Use with caution 45.3 44.2 46.4 31.6
Without any disability 51.9 81.9 84.0 83.6 64.0

Disability in the workplace

Nearly a quarter (22.9%) of employed adults with a flexibility disability indicated that their employer was unaware of their condition(s).

Among those with a flexibility disability who were either in the labour market at the time of the survey or had been in the labour market within five years prior to the survey, 51.7% reported that they believed their employer considered them disadvantaged and 49.3% reported that they felt disadvantaged in the labour market (Chart 5). With respect to more specific indicators of disadvantage in the labour market, 13.5% believed that they had been refused a job, 9.0% felt they had been refused a promotion, and 8.6% believed they had been refused a job interview—all due to their disability or disabilities. It is important to remember that this is based on the impact of all disability types these individuals with flexibility disabilities may have had.

Chart 5 Perceived employment discrimination or disadvantage among adults with a flexibility disability, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 5
Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5. The information is grouped by Perceived discrimination or disadvantage (appearing as row headers), Percent (appearing as column headers).
Perceived discrimination or disadvantage Percent
Feels employer considers them disadvantaged 51.7
Feels disadvantaged 49.3
Refused a job 13.5
Refused a job promotion 9.0
Refused a job interview 8.6

Job modifications

Overall, 53.9% of adults with a flexibility disability who were or had been recently employedNote 4 stated that they needed at least one type of job accommodation such as modified work hours (30.4%), special back supports (25.4%), modified duties (20.6%), a modified workstation (17.6%) and other job accommodations. Of those requiring modifications, 49.0% reported that all of their needs had been met, while 26.6% indicated that some needs had been met. Another 24.4% reported that none of their needs had been met. Given the high rate of co-occurrence with other types of disabilities, some of these accommodations may have been for disabilities other than flexibility.

Hours worked

Employed, working-age adults aged 15 to 64 with a flexibility disability worked an average of 34 hours per week,Note 5 which is lower than the average number for those without any reported type of disability (37 hours).Note 6

Not in the labour force

Among adults with a flexibility disability aged 15 to 64 who were not in the labour force, the majority (83.3%) reported that their condition(s) prevented them from working. Of these individuals, 18.2% indicated that some type of accommodation would allow them to work. As well, 22.9% indicated that they would look for work in the next 12 months.Note 7 Respondents who planned to look for work were asked why they intended to do so:

Many of those who were not in the labour force encountered barriers that discouraged them from looking for work. Some of the most commonly reported job search barriers for those with a flexibility disability were the lack of available local jobs (20.9%), inadequate training or experience (18.1%), and unsuccessful past attempts (18.0%) (Chart 6).

Chart 6 Prevalence of job search barriers for adults with a flexibility disability who were not in the labour force, aged 15 to 64 years, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 6
Data table for Chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 6. The information is grouped by Job search barriers (appearing as row headers), Percent (appearing as column headers).
Job search barriers Percent
Few jobs available locally 20.9
Training/experience not adequate 18.1
Past attempts were unsuccessful 18.0
Would lose additional supports (e.g., drug/housing) 14.3

Supports

Overall, about 85.1% of adults with a flexibility disability indicated that they required help with some type of everyday activity, and nearly two-thirds (64.7%) of them reported having some level of unmet need for at least one of these support requirements.

While over three-quarters (78.5%) of all adults with a flexibility disability reported receiving help with at least one type of everyday activity, there was an unmet need for various specific types of supports, as summarized in Chart 7. For example, 38.4% of all adults with a flexibility disability had an unmet need for help with heavy household chores, while 6.3% had an unmet need for help with moving around.

Chart 7 Met and unmet needs for help with everyday activities among adults with a flexibility disability, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Data table for Chart 7
Data table for Chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 7. The information is grouped by Help with everyday activities (appearing as row headers), Needed help, not received and Needed help, received, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Help with everyday activities Needed help, not received Needed help, received
percent
Heavy household chores 38.4 32.5
Housework 29.7 28.2
Getting to appointment and running errands 23.3 27.2
Preparing meals 14.6 22.8
Personal finances 8.7 16.5
Personal care 8.8 13.7
Medical care 6.6 9.9
Moving around 6.3 8.8

Help with everyday activities was most likely to have come from family members, particularly those in the same household. For example, among those receiving assistance with such activities, two-thirds (66.0%) of those with flexibility disabilities received some help from family members living with them and 43.0% received some help from family members who were not living with them. Help with everyday activities came from other sources as well. For example, among those who received some assistance, 28.5% of adults with flexibility disabilities also indicated receiving help from a friend or neighbour, 21.5% paid an individual or organization for help, and 13.9% reported receiving help from an organization free of charge.

Income

Personal income for working-age adults

The median personal income (before taxes) of working-age adults aged 15 to 64 with a flexibility disabilityNote 8 was $17,900—slightly more than half that of those without any reported type of disability ($31,200).Note 9 Working-age men with flexibility disabilities had a higher median personal income than their female counterparts ($21,700 versus $16,600).

Those with a flexibility disability were also more likely to be reliant on government transfersNote 10 (56.5%) as their major source of income compared to those without any reported type of disability (18.7%). Furthermore, it was found that employed adults aged 15 to 64 with a flexibility disability had a lower median employment incomeNote 11 than those without any reported type of disability ($24,200 versus $34,100). Men with flexibility disabilities had a higher median employment income than women with flexibility disabilities ($31,000 versus $20,000).

Conclusion

Adults with a flexibility disability face many challenges. Co-occurrence with other disability types was very high. In particular, the majority of individuals with a flexibility disability also had a mobility disability and/or a pain-related disability, and this was observed across all age groups. At the same time, educational attainment and employment levels among those with a flexibility disability were lower than for those who did not report any disability. Even when employed, those with a flexibility disability had lower levels of employment income. Consequently, it is not surprising that working-age adults with a flexibility disability were also more likely than those without any disability to rely on government transfers as their major source of income. Nearly 9 in 10 adults with a flexibility disability required some type of help with everyday activities (in particular, the more physically demanding activities such as heavy household chores and housework), and about two-thirds of them had some level of unmet need.

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Appendix A

Identification of adults with a flexibility disability

The 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) identifies persons with a flexibility disability as persons whose daily activities are limited because of difficulties with their ability to bend down and pick up an object from the floor and/or with reaching in any direction. The survey used the newly developed Disability Screening Questions (DSQ) to identify disability. The initial step in identifying a flexibility disability was to establish the existence of difficulty with flexibility. This was done using the following questions:

DSQ_16
How much difficulty do you have bending down and picking up an object from the floor?

  • No difficulty
  • Some (difficulty)
  • A lot (of difficulty)
  • You cannot do at all

DSQ_17
How much difficulty do you have reaching in any direction, for example, above your head?

  • No difficulty
  • Some (difficulty)
  • A lot (of difficulty)
  • You cannot do at all

Those who reported having at least “some” difficulty with either task received a follow-up question to determine how often this difficulty limited their daily activities:

DSQ_18
How often does this difficulty bending and picking up an object or reaching limit your daily activities?

  • Never
  • Rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Often
  • Always

A flexibility disability was identified when respondents reported being limited at least sometimes, regardless of degree of difficulty. If they reported being limited rarely, they were considered to have a flexibility disability if they also indicated having a lot of difficulty or reported being unable to perform at least one of the two tasks.

An estimated 2,854,100 Canadian adults reported having difficulty with at least one of the two flexibility tasks. Of these, 776,100 (2.8% of the adult population) reported not being limited by their condition. However, 2,078,000 (7.6%) Canadian adults were identified as having a flexibility disability, based on the methodology described above.

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