Reports on Disability and Accessibility in Canada
Canadian Survey on Disability, 2022: Concepts and Methods Guide

by Robin Pianosi, Laura Presley, Jeannie Buchanan, Amélie Lévesque, Sarah-Anne Savard and Janet Lam

Release date: December 1, 2023

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1. Introduction

1.1 Survey overview

The 2022 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) is a national survey of Canadians aged 15 and over whose everyday activities are limited because of a long-term condition or health-related problem. The CSD was developed by Statistics Canada in collaboration with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The Survey was conducted from June 3 to November 30, 2022.

The CSD is based on a social model of disabilities. The premise of the social model is that disability is the result of the interaction between a person’s functional limitations and barriers in the environment, including social and physical barriers that make it harder to function day-to-day. Thus, disability is a social disadvantage that an unsupportive environment imposes on top of an individual’s impairment (Mackenzie et al., 2009).

The 2022 CSD provides a range of data on 10 different disability types, focusing on activity limitations related to hearing, vision, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, mental health, memory and developmental disabilities.Note Different levels of severity are also measured. The survey includes data on the use of aids and assistive devices, daily help received or required by respondents, and the use of various health care therapies and social service supports. Survey content also addresses the education and employment experiences of persons with disabilities. Requirements and unmet needs for accommodations in these areas are included. Detailed indicators of labour market participation are captured as well as data related to labour force discrimination. Sources of income are also included. In addition, information on Internet usage are measured. Data for Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces with disabilities are also available. New content on the 2022 CSD includes accessibility barriers experienced, questions about social isolation, food security and homelessness, modules on sex and gender as well as sexual orientation, and questions about COVID-19.

Data from the CSD will provide an evidence-based foundation to serve disability and social policy analysts at all levels of government, as well as associations for persons with disabilities and researchers working in the field of disability policy and programs. The CSD will be used to plan and evaluate services, programs and policies for Canadian youth and adults with disabilities to help enable their full participation in society. Data relating to accessibility barriers will serve to evaluate the 2019 Accessible Canada Act. In particular, this information on adults with disabilities is essential for the effective development and operation of the Employment Equity Program. Data on disability are also used to fulfill Canada’s obligations relating to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The 2022 CSD was based on a sample of persons who reported having a long-term condition or difficulty on the Activities of Daily Living question from the 2021 Census long-form questionnaire, and who were 15 years of age or older as of the date of the Census, May 11, 2021. Since the census excludes the institutionalized population and those living in other collective dwellings, such as Canadian Armed Forces bases, the CSD only covers persons living in private dwellings in Canada. Also, for operational reasons, the population living on First Nation reserves is excluded. Total sample size for the CSD was approximately 54,000Note individuals. The overall collection response rate was 61.1%. The CSD provides reliable data on persons with disabilities for each province and territory in Canada and by age group.

1.2 Background

Data on disability in Canada have been collected for over 40 years, reflecting an evolving recognition of the importance of data to support the goal of full participation of persons with disabilities. Concepts and methods used in the production of data on disability have also evolved over time. The first survey on disability in Canada was conducted in 1981, the International Year of the Disabled, shortly after the Canadian Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped published its report entitled “Obstacles”. Among the report’s 130 recommendations was that Statistics Canada produce data on persons with disabilities. This recommendation read, in part:

“… that the Federal Government direct Statistics Canada to give a high priority to the development and implementation of a long-term strategy which will generate comprehensive data on disabled persons in Canada, using population-based surveys and program data.”

This launched the Canadian Health and Disability Survey, which was conducted as a supplement to the October 1983 and June 1984 Labour Force Survey. In addition, the 1986 Census included a question about activity limitations that would help to identify persons who were likely to have a disability. Later that year, Statistics Canada used that census information to select a sample for the Health and Activity Limitation Survey (HALS), making it the first post-censal survey on disability. The 1986 HALS served to identify Canadians with disabilities and also to determine the limitations they experienced and the barriers they faced. A second HALS took place in 1991.

In 1996, no post-censal survey was conducted. However, in 1998, the federal, provincial and territorial governments released their common disability framework, In Unison, calling for the promotion of greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society. Their 1998 report noted the importance of developing a reliable statistical database on disability and underlined the key role survey data would play in supporting policy development and research in this area.

In 2001, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), was approved by all World Health Organization (WHO) member states, including Canada. The ICF defined disability as the relationship between body structures and functions, daily activities and social participation, while recognizing the role of environmental factors. Influenced by this new definition of disability driven by a social model approach, the HALS was redesignedNote and renamed as the Participation and Activity Limitations Survey (PALS). PALS was conducted in 2001 and 2006. The new name reflected the fact that the new survey would increase the focus on the participation of persons with activity limitations. Once again, it was conducted as a post-censal survey on disability, using census information to create a sampling frame. As with HALS, PALS was a joint effort by Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada (known in 2006 as Human Resources and Social Development Canada).

In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In keeping with Article 31 on Statistics and Data Collection, ESDC launched the New Disability Data Strategy and began developing a new set of questions to identify persons with disabilities, called the Disability Screening Questions (DSQ). The DSQ sought to move more fully towards the social model of disability, to achieve greater consistency in disability identification by type, and to improve coverage of the full range of disability types, especially disabilities related to mental health, development, learning and memory. The DSQ instrument was extensively tested qualitatively and quantitatively and then used for the first time to identify adults with a disability on the 2012 CSD. The CSD provided a portrait of adult Canadians with disabilities in relation to their participation in society. A second CSD was conducted in 2017, continuing with the DSQ framework for the measurement of disability in Canada. It also continues in the tradition of a post-censal survey conducted on a five-year cycle.

The 2022 CSD contains many of the same questions presented in 2017 and was designed for this data to be as comparable as possible to that of 2017. New content on sex and gender, cannabis use, accessibility barriers, social isolation, food security, homelessness, sexual orientation and COVID-19 were also introduced.

1.3 A Notice to users about comparability between survey cycles

The 2022 CSD was designed to prioritize, as much as possible, comparability with the 2017 CSD and many variables provide the opportunity for historical comparisons. The implementation of a comparable cycle in 2022 was complex and consideration was applied at every stage of development including: content development; survey design and methodology; questionnaire development; testing, collection and data processing.

However, data users are cautioned that not all content between the two cycles is comparable, as some modifications were made. For example, some questions underwent changes to ensure relevancy and currency, while others were changed to expand on analytical scope; to address data gaps; and, or to provide information on emerging issues.

Data users should carefully review Section 8 for differences between 2017 and 2022 and Appendix E for variable-level comparability information. Those accessing the data through the RDCs and RTRA should pay close attention to the RDC User Guide and 2022 CSD data dictionaries for potential differences between the 2017 and 2022 cycles that may invalidate comparability. This could include changes to question text, response categories, entry conditions and flows as well as question coverage.

Please also note that there was a change in the methodology after the 2012 CSD cycle which means that time series comparability with 2012 CSD data is neither possible nor recommended. Any attempts at comparison will be considered invalid.

1.4 Purpose of the Concepts and Methods Guide

This Concepts and Methods Guide is intended to provide an understanding of the 2022 CSD with respect to its subject-matter content and its methodological approaches and to help outline the differences between the 2022 CSD and the previous cycle in 2017 for those interested in comparable data. It is designed to assist CSD data users by serving as a guide to the concepts and questions used in the survey as well as the technical details of survey design, data collection and data processing. The guide provides helpful information on how to use and interpret survey results. Its discussion of data quality also allows users to review the strengths and limitations of the data for their particular needs.


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