Canadian Survey on Disability Reports
Workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities in Canada, 2017

by Stuart Morris

Release date: September 25, 2019
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Abstract

Workplace accommodations such as flexible work schedules or workstation modifications can play an important role in creating an inclusive and accessible work environment for many employees with disabilities. This fact sheet presents findings from the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) on requirements and access to workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years. It explores: the different types and number of accommodations commonly required in the workplace; whether those needs were met; and, the reasons why, in some instances, needs for accommodations went unmet. The key findings are:

  • Of employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, more than 1 in 3 (37%) required at least one workplace accommodation to be able to work. This represented just over 772,000 Canadians.
  • The most commonly required type of workplace accommodations were flexible work arrangements (27%), workstation modifications (15%), and human or technical supports (6%).
  • Employees with “more severe” disabilities (62%) were twice as likely to require workplace accommodations compared to those with “less severe” disabilities (29%).
  • Of those who required workplace accommodations: 59% had all of their needs met, 19% had some of their needs met, and 21% had none of their needs met.
  • The more workplace accommodations required, the less likely all needs were met. Of those who required only one accommodation, 75% had their need met; however, this drops to 36% when they required three or more.
  • Of those with at least one unmet need for workplace accommodations: 69% said that they did not make the request for them to their employer or supervisor. Of these, 36% said their employer or supervisor was already aware they needed them.
  • Of those with at least one unmet need for workplace accommodations: 25% said they did make a request for them to their employer or supervisor. However, 40% were refused their request.
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Types of Workplace Accommodations

Three out of the five top required WPA were related to flexible work arrangements

Workplace accommodations (WPA) such as flexible work schedules, assistive devices, or ergonomic workstations can play an important role for employees with disabilities by helping mitigate some of the barriers they may face in the workplace (e.g., Lindsay et al. 2018, Padkapayeva et al. 2017, Soloveiva et al. 2011). While not all employees with disabilities will require WPA to be able to do their work, a sizeable number do. According to the 2017 CSD, just over 772,000 employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years required at least one WPA to be able to work (see Table 1). This represented 37% of employed persons with disabilities in Canada. The most frequently required WPA was flexible work schedules in the form of modified hours or days or reduced work hours (19%), and it was made available or the need was met for 74% of employees who required it. A computer or tablet with specialized software, on the other hand, was one of the least likely WPA to be made available to employees who required it where the need was met in less than half of the cases (45%). 

Table 1 start


Table 1
Requirements and needs met for workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Requirements and needs met for workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years. The information is grouped by Type of workplace accommodation (appearing as row headers), Require and Needs met, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of workplace accommodation Require Needs met
number percent
One or more workplace accommodations 772,110 37.3 Note ...: not applicable
Modified hours or days or reduced work hours 393,410 19.0 73.7
Modified or different duties 278,870 13.5 66.1
Special chair or back support 232,470 11.2 61.0
Modified or ergonomic workstation 215,720 10.4 60.3
Working from home 171,850 8.3 69.6
Computer, laptop or tablet with specialized software 65,280 3.2 45.4
Human support 55,280 2.7 56.6
Adapted or accessible parking 51,440 2.5 58.0
Technical aids 35,070Note E: Use with caution 1.7Note E: Use with caution 44.5Note E: Use with caution
Accessible elevators 34,520 1.7 62.3
Handrails, ramps, widened doorways or hallways 23,690 1.1 63.4
Communication aids 23,240Note E: Use with caution 1.1Note E: Use with caution 41.3Note E: Use with caution
Adapted washroom 17,760Note E: Use with caution 0.9Note E: Use with caution 74.6
Specialized transportation 12,170Note E: Use with caution 0.6Note E: Use with caution 46.8Note E: Use with caution
Other equipment, help, or work arrangement 47,960 2.3 57.6

Table 1 end

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Global Severity Class

A global severity score was developed for the CSD, which took into account the number of disability types that a person has, the level of difficulty experienced in performing certain tasks, and the frequency of activity limitations. To simplify the concept of severity, four severity classes were established: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. It is important to understand, however, that the name assigned to each class is simply intended to facilitate use of the severity score and is not a label or judgement concerning the person’s level of disability. In this fact sheet, mild and moderate classes were collapsed into “less severe” and severe and very severe classes were collapsed into “more severe”.

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The severity of employees’ disabilities affects the likelihood of requiring WPA. As can be seen in the top most frequently required WPA presented in Chart 1, employees with “more severe” disabilities were significantly more likely to require them in each instance compared to those with “less severe” disabilities. For example, employees with “more severe” disabilities (29%) were 3.5 times more likely to require modified or different duties compared to those with “less severe” disabilities (8%).

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Chart 1 Top required workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, by severity of disability, 2017

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Disability - more severe and Disability - less severe (reference), calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability - more severe Disability - less severe (reference)
percent
Modified hours or days or reduces work hours 35.4Note * 13.7
Modified or different duties 29.2Note * 8.4
Modified or ergonometric workstation 17.5Note * 8.1
Working from home 14.7Note * 6.2

Chart 1 end

Despite variations in requirements by severity of disability, as presented in Chart 1, there were no statistically significant differences found by severity of disability when it comes to percentage with needs met for WPA. The exception to this was “working from home”. In this instance, employees with “more severe” disabilities (61%) were less likely to have their need met compared to employees with “less severe” disabilities (76%).

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Defining level of needs met for workplace accommodations

A ‘need’ is considered ‘met’ if the WPA required by employees with disabilities to be able to do their job was made available to them. Since employees vary in terms of the number of WPA they required as well as how many of those were actually made available to them, a three level classification system was developed for “needs met”. This classification is based on questions EMO_Q05 (Because of your condition, do you require any of the following to be able to work…?) and EMO_Q10 (Which of the following have been made available to you…?), where each lists the same 15 WPA options.

Provided that at least one WPA was required, respondents were classified into one of three levels of needs met. Respondents were classified as having “all of their needs met” if all required WPA options selected in EMO_Q05 were also all selected as being made available to them in EMO_Q10. Respondents were classified as having “some of their needs met” if some, but not all, of the required WPA options selected in EMO_Q05 were selected as being made available to them in EMO_Q10. To be eligible for this classification, respondents needed to have selected at least two required WPA in EMO_Q05. And finally, respondents were classified as having “none of their needs met” if none of the 15 WPA options selected as required in EMO_Q05 were selected as being made available to them in EMO_Q10.

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Employees were almost twice as likely to have no WPA made available to them for human or technical supports (44%) compared to flexible work arrangements (23%)

As a groupNote , the most commonly required WPA were flexible work arrangements (27%), workstation modifications (15%), and human or technical supports (6%) – see Table 2. When it comes to flexible work arrangements: 69% had all of their needs met, 8% had some of their needs met, and 23% had none of their needs met. Women and those with “more severe” disabilities were more likely to require flexible work arrangements relative to their counterparts. However, in terms of level of needs met, there were no statistically significant differences by sex or severity of disability for either “none” or “all” of their needs met relative to their counterparts. Women and those with “more severe” disabilities were, however, more likely to have “some” of their needs met relative to their counterparts. 

Table 2 start


Table 2
Requirements and level of needs met for workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, by sex and severity of disability, 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Requirements and level of needs met for workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years. The information is grouped by Grouped workplace accommodations (appearing as row headers), Require, Level of needs met, All, Some and None, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Grouped workplace accommodations Require Level of needs met
All Some None
percent
Flexible work arrangements
Total - aged 25 to 64 years 27.1 68.8 7.7 23.2
Sex
Men (reference) 22.7 69.9 5.0Note E: Use with caution 24.6
Women 31.0Note * 68.2 9.5Note * 22.3
Severity of disability
Less severe (reference) 20.1 71.8 3.9Note E: Use with caution 24.0
More severe 48.5Note * 65.1 12.6Note * 22.2
Workstation modifications
Total - aged 25 to 64 years 14.8 57.1 6.3Note E: Use with caution 36.5
Sex
Men (reference) 10.3 58.6 Note F: too unreliable to be published 37.4
Women 18.7Note * 56.3 7.5Note E: Use with caution 36.1
Severity of disability
Less severe (reference) 11.4 60.9 5.7Note E: Use with caution 33.4
More severe 25.3Note * 51.9 7.2Note E: Use with caution 40.8
Human or technical supports
Total - aged 25 to 64 years 6.1 49.9 5.6Note E: Use with caution 43.8

Table 2 end

When it comes to workstation modifications: 57% had all of their needs met, 6%E had some of their needs met, and 37% had none of their needs met. Women and those with “more severe” disabilities were more likely to require workstation modifications relative to their counterparts. However no statistically significant differences were found with regards to their level of needs being met.      

And finally, in the case of WPA related to human or technical supportsNote : 50% had all of their needs met, 6%E had some of their needs met, and 44% had none of their needs met.

Number of Workplace Accommodations

Of employees who required WPA: 45% required one, 28% required two and 27% required three or more

In addition to requiring different types of WPA, employees with disabilities also varied in terms of the number of WPA they required to be able to do their job. Employees were more likely to require only one WPA if they: a) were men, b) had a “less severe” disability, c) had just one disability type, or d) were in trades and manufacturing or sales and customer service occupations (see Table 3). Age did not have a significant effect, with requirements for one, two, or three or more WPA being similarly distributed for younger (25 to 44 years) and older (45 to 64 years) employees. Women were more likely to require three or more WPA as were those with “more severe” or four or more disability types relative to their respective counterparts.

Table 3 start


Table 3
Number of workplace accommodations required for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, by select characteristics, 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Number of workplace accommodations required for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years. The information is grouped by Select characteristics (appearing as row headers), Require, One, Two and Three or more, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Select characteristics Require
One Two Three or more
percent
Total - aged 25 to 64 years 44.9 27.9 27.2
25 to 44 years (reference) 45.6 28.0 26.4
45 to 64 years 44.3 27.9 27.8
Sex
Men (reference) 51.8 25.8 22.4
Women 40.4Note * 29.3 30.3Note *
Severity of disability
Less severe (reference) 52.3 28.1 19.6
More severe 34.1Note * 27.7 38.2Note *
Number of disability types
1 (reference) 56.3 27.2 16.5
2 or 3 49.4 28.1 22.5
4 or more 30.0Note * 28.3 41.7Note *
Occupation
Management and finance 37.9Note * 32.5Note * 29.6
Professional occupations in applied sciences, health, education, law, and sport 41.0Note * 28.6 30.4
Sales and customer service 50.4 26.8 22.8
Trades, transportation, natural resources, manufacturing, utilities, and related (reference) 57.7 20.6Note E: Use with caution 21.7Note E: Use with caution

Table 3 end

Of employees who required two or more WPA, eight in ten had at least some of their needs met

The finding that certain subgroups of employees with disabilities were likely to require more WPA compared to their counterparts is important because, as can be seen in Chart 2, the number of WPA impacted the likelihood of having all their needs met. When looking at the overall picture of those who required at least one WPA: 59% had all of their needs met, 19% had some of their needs met, and 21% had none of their needs met. However, when broken down by the actual number of WPA required by employees, the percent who had all of their needs met goes down from 75% for those with one need, to 57% for those with two needs, and to 36% for those with three or more needs. No statistically significant differences were found among the percent of employees who had none of their needs met, which remained somewhat stable at around 20% - regardless of the number of WPA they required.

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Chart 2 Level of needs met for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, by number of workplace accommodations required, 2017

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 None needs met, Some needs met and All needs met, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
None needs met Some needs met All needs met
percent
Require 1 or more accommodations 21.1 19.0 59.3
Require 1 23.8 0.0Note * 75.3Note *
Require 2 18.7 24.1Note * 56.6Note *
Require 3 or more (reference) 19.2 45.1 35.7

Chart 2 end

Requirements and Needs Met for Workplace Accommodations: By Select Characteristics

22% of employees with one disability type required WPA versus 63% with four or more disability types

Table 4 shows that requirements for WPA were highest among those who: a) had “more severe” disabilities, b) had multiple or co-occurring disability types, c) were women, or d) were in management or professional occupations. No statistically significant differences were found in WPA requirements either by size of company or by “years spent in the same company”. However, significant differences were found when it comes to the percentage of employees having all of their needs met for WPA. Employees in small size companies (less than 20 people) were more likely to have all of their needs met for WPA compared to those in large companies (100 or more people). This may be due, in part, to the finding that they were also more likely to require only one WPA, which tends to increase the likelihood of having those needs met. Employees who were new to a company (2 years or less) were less likely to have all of their needs met for WPA compared to those who have been with the company longer (3 years or more). No significant differences were found between employees with one versus two or three disability types in terms of percent with all of their needs met (around 64%); but it was significantly lower for employees with four or more disability types (49%). And finally, employees in trades and manufacturing occupations were more likely to have none of their needs met compared to those in management or professional occupations. This finding is noteworthy because those in trades and manufacturing were also more likely to require only one WPA.

Table 4 start


Table 4
Requirements and level of needs met for workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, by select characteristics, 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Requirements and level of needs met for workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years. The information is grouped by Select characteristics (appearing as row headers), Require, Level of needs met , All, Some and None, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Select characteristics Require Level of needs met
All Some None
percent
Sex
Men (reference) 31.6 62.4 14.6 22.6
Women 42.3Note * 57.3 21.9Note * 20.2
Severity of disability
Less severe (reference) 29.2 63.2 14.9 21.6
More severe 62.0Note * 53.7Note * 24.8Note * 20.5
Number of disability types
1 (reference) 21.9 64.8 12.3Note E: Use with caution 22.9
2 or 3 41.3Note * 64.1 16.9 17.8
4 or more 63.2Note * 48.6Note * 27.0Note * 24.3
Occupation
Management and finance 43.8Note * 63.6 17.4 18.9Note *
Professional occupations in applied sciences, health, education, law, and sport 39.4Note * 54.8 26.8Note * 18.3Note *
Sales and customer service 34.0 60.3 14.7 22.8
Trades, transportation, natural resources, manufacturing, utilities, and related (reference) 30.7 59.6 12.0Note E: Use with caution 28.3
Size of company or organization
Less than 20 people (reference) 32.4 64.7 16.5 18.7
100 or more people 36.7 53.9Note * 23.3 22.3
Years at same company or organization
0-2 years (reference) 34.2 47.1 20.6 32.2
3 or more years 36.3 60.5Note * 20.8 17.9Note *

Table 4 end

Reasons for Unmet Needs for Workplace Accommodations

Of employees who did not make a WPA request, 36% said their employer or supervisor was already aware they need them

Two in five (40%) employees with disabilities who required WPA had at least one unmet need. Of these, half had no WPA made available them. With so many employees not receiving all the work supports they required, it is important to gain a better understanding of the possible reasons why needs may go unmet for WPA.

The findings show that only one in four (25%)Note  employees with disabilities who have an unmet need for WPA actually made the request to their employer or supervisor for it, with women (29%) being more likely to ask than men (17%E). The severity of employees’ disabilities did not significantly affect the likelihood of making a request for an unmet WPA. However, of those who did ask their employer or supervisor, 40% were refused their requestNote .

Of the 69%Note  who said they did not ask their employer or supervisor for the WPA they required, 36% said their employer or supervisor was already aware they needed it. However, 41% believed that their employer or supervisor was, in fact, unaware they required a WPA, while 22% said that they didn’t know if their employer or supervisor knew. The most common reasons given for not making the employer or supervisor aware of their needs revolved around the employees’ levels of comfort with asking for the WPA (42%) as well as fear of negative outcomes (34%) – see Chart 3Note .

Chart 3 start

Chart 3 Top reasons why requests are not made for workplace accommodations required by employees with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, 2017

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3 Percent (appearing as column headers).
Percent
Uncomfortable asking 41.9
Fear of negative outcomes 33.5
Conditions is not severe enough 31.6
Did not want to disclose need for WPA 30.0

Chart 3 end

Conclusion

For employees with disabilities, WPA can help mitigate some of the barriers they may face in the workplace. Research shows that there are a number of benefits to both the employee and employer including increased employability and income (Padkapayeva et al. 2017), greater productivity and company loyalty (Soloveiva et al. 2011), and creation of a more inclusive work culture and environment (Lindsay et al. 2018).

The findings from this fact sheet show that 37% of employees with disabilities required at least one WPA to be able to do their work. While 59% of those employees had all their needs met, 40% still had at least one unmet need for WPA and half of those had none of their needs met. Variations in level of needs met for WPA is multifaceted and, as shown in this fact sheet, influenced by the: a) severity and number of disabilities an employee had, b) type and number of WPA required, c) nature of the work itself, d) degree of support provided by the employer or supervisor, and e) willingness of the employees themselves to ask for what they need. While a large majority did not require any WPA to be able to do their work (63%) and many who had all their needs met if they required WPA, there remains a large number of at-risk employees with disabilities who had none or, at best, only some of the prerequisite support(s) they required for a fully accessible workplace.

References

Lindsay, Sally, Elaine Cagliostro, Mikhaela Albarico, Neda Mortaji, Leora Karon. 2018. A Systematic Review of the Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation.

Solovieva I., Tatiana, Denetta L. Dowler, Richard T. Wall. 2011. Employer benefits from making workplace accommodations. Disability and Health Journal.

Padkapayeva, Kathy, Andrew Posen, Amin Yazdani, Quenby Mahood, Emile Tompa. 2017. Workplace accommodations for persons with physical disabilities: evidence synthesis of the peer-reviewed literature. Disability and Rehabilitation.

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