Reports on Disability and Accessibility in Canada
A demographic, employment and income profile of persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over in Canada, 2022

by Benoît-Paul Hébert, Christina Kevins, Amirabbas Mofidi, Stuart Morris, Diana Simionescu, and Madison Thicke

Release date: May 28, 2024

Introduction

The Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) is the official source for the disability rate among the Canadian population and provides insight on the lived experiences of persons with disabilities. This profile is the first in-depth look at results of the 2022 CSD, following the initial release in late 2023 (The Daily, 2023a). The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the prevalence of disability in Canada, and of the labour market participation and income of Canadians with disabilities. Where possible, results of the 2022 CSD will be compared with the 2017 CSD, to provide insight into changes in the rate of disability, labour market participation and income over the past five years.

This profile, which builds on a previous CSD report (A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017), is divided into three sections – demographics, employment, and income – and is guided by three main questions: What is the prevalence of disabilities in Canada? How does the employment level of persons with disabilities compare to those without disabilities? How does income compare between persons with and without disabilities, and what implications does this have regarding poverty? This article considers a number of factors that may have a meaningful impact on employment and income for persons with disabilities, including severity of disabilities, age, gender, education, and living arrangements. As a result of differences in the way some estimates were calculated in the previous CSD report, comparisons between the two articles should be made with caution.

Data from the CSD, and this profile in particular, will help inform policies, programs and services which support persons with disabilities. Furthermore, these data support the implementation of Canada’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) (Government of Canada, 2022a) and the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) (2019).

Comparisons between CSD cycles

For the first time, it is possible to compare two cycles of the CSD – that is, the 2017 and 2022 CSD. This is possible because the same set of questions and the same methodology were used to identify persons with a disability. However, changes to survey content may impact the comparability of data over time. For more information on comparability between 2022 and 2017, see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2022: Concepts and Methods Guide (Pianosi et al., 2023). Comparisons with the 2012 CSD are not possible due to changes in survey methodology that occurred between the 2012 and 2017 cycles, specifically changes to the questions used on the census to identify the CSD target population of persons most likely to have a disability. For more information on comparability between 2017 CSD and 2012 CSD, see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017: Concepts and Methods Guide(Cloutier et al., 2018).

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About the Canadian Survey on Disability

Canada has collected data on disability for more than 30 years. Since 2012, the Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) has been Canada’s main source of that data. The CSD provides comprehensive data on persons with disabilities for each province and territory. The survey also collects essential information on disability types and severity, supports for persons with disabilities, their employment profiles, income, education, and other disability-specific information.

The survey population for the 2022 CSD was comprised of Canadians aged 15 years and over as of the date of the 2021 Census of the Population (May 2021) who were living in private dwellings. It excludes those living in institutions, on Canadian Armed Forces bases, on First Nations reserves and those living in collective dwellings. As the institutionalized population is excluded, the data, particularly for the older age groups, should be interpreted accordingly.

The CSD uses Disability Screening Questions (DSQ) which are based on the social model of disability (Grondin, 2016). This model defines disability as the relationship between body function and structure, daily activities and social participation, while recognizing the role of environmental factors. In keeping with this framework, the CSD targeted respondents who not only have a difficulty or impairment due to a long-term condition or health problem but also experience limitations in their daily activities. The CSD definition of disability includes anyone who reported being “sometimes”, “often” or “always” limited in their daily activities due to a long-term condition or health problem, as well as anyone who reported being “rarely” limited if they were also unable to do certain tasks or could only do them with a lot of difficulty.

For more information, see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2022: Concepts and Methods Guide (Pianosi et al., 2023). 

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Section 1: Demographics

Section 1 explores key demographics of Canadians with disabilities in 2022. It presents data on the prevalence (or rate) of disability, disability severity, types of disability, number of co-occurring disability types, and how these characteristics differ by age and gender. Where applicable, comparisons between 2017 and 2022 are also provided to highlight changes over time.Note 

1.1  Prevalence and severity of disabilities

More than one in four Canadians aged 15 years and over have a disability

In 2022, the disability rate for persons aged 15 years and over in Canada was 27%. This represents nearly 8 million people who were identified as having one or more disabilities, an increase of 1.7 million people over 2017, when the disability rate was 22% (Table 1.1.A; Table 1.1.B). Disability rates increased with age: one in five (20%) youth aged 15 to 24 years had one or more disabilities in 2022, compared to one in four (24%) adults aged 25 to 64 years and two in five (40%) seniors aged 65 years and over (Chart 1.1; Table 1.1.A).

Chart 1.1 Disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by gender and age group, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.1 
Data table for chart 1.1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.1. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), Total, all genders, Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group Total, all genders Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Total, 15 years and over 27.0 26.6 27.3 29.9 29.4 30.4 23.9 23.4 24.4
15 to 24 years 20.1 19.5 20.7 24.7 23.6 25.7 15.8 14.9 16.8
25 to 44 years 20.5 19.9 21.1 23.9 23.0 24.8 17.0 16.1 17.9
45 to 64 years 27.7Note * 27.0 28.3 29.9Note * 28.9 31.0 25.3Note * 24.3 26.4
65 to 74 years 35.0Note * 34.0 36.0 35.8Note * 34.2 37.4 34.0Note * 32.4 35.7
75 years and over 49.2Note * 47.8 50.5 50.8Note * 48.7 52.8 47.2Note * 45.0 49.3
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Sex at birth and gender

The 2022 CSD includes questions on both sex at birth and gender, while the 2017 CSD asked respondents if they were male or female (i.e., their sex). This analysis uses the concept of gender to disaggregate and disseminate 2022 CSD data. The change to disseminate data on gender rather than sex is consistent with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Policy direction to modernize the Government of Canada’s sex and gender information practices (2018) and is consistent with the changes to the 2021 Census (see Filling the gaps: Information on gender in the 2021 Census).

In this analysis, in the case of the 2022 CSD data, a two-category gender variable is used to protect the confidentiality of non-binary persons, given the relatively small size of this population in Canada. More specifically, non-binary persons have been redistributed into the ‘men’ and ‘women’ categories. The category of ‘men’ includes cisgender and transgender men (and/or boys), as well as some non-binary persons, while ‘women’ includes cisgender and transgender women (and/or girls), as well as some non-binary persons (in charts and tables these categories are denoted as ‘men+’ and ‘women+’). Although sex and gender refer to two different concepts, the introduction of gender is not expected to have a significant impact on data analysis and historical comparability relative to the 2017 CSD, given the small size of the transgender and non-binary populations.

For more information, see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2022: Concepts and Methods Guide (Pianosi et al., 2023).

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Women are more likely than men to have a disability

In 2022, among Canadians aged 15 years and over, a greater proportion of women (30%) had a disability than men (24%). Disability rates were higher among women than men for all age groups except those aged 65 to 74 years, where the difference between women and men was not statistically significant (Chart 1.1; Table 1.1.A). The largest gaps in the disability rate between women and men occurred for those aged 15 to 24 years (9 percentage points) and 25 to 44 years (7 percentage points), with the gap tending to narrow with age.

Younger age groups see largest increase in disability rate since 2017

Between 2017 and 2022, the overall disability rate increased by 5 percentage points (from 22% to 27%) among people aged 15 years and over (Chart 1.2; Table 1.1.A). Disability rates increased across all age groups except for seniors aged 75 and over. These increases were largest among youth aged 15 to 24 years (an increase of 7 percentage points) and adults aged 25 to 44 years (an increase of 5 percentage points). High rates of disability among seniors (a growing population in CanadaNote ) and increased rates of disability among younger age groups contributed to the overall increase in the prevalence of disabilities since 2017.

In addition, disability rates increased among women and men between 2017 and 2022, but the increase was larger for women (from 24% to 30%) than for men (from 20% to 24%). This means that the difference in disability rates among women and men also widened between 2017 and 2022 (from 4 to 6 percentage points).

Chart 1.2 Disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by age group, 2017 and 2022

Data table for Chart 1.2 
Data table for chart 1.2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.2. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), 2017, 2022, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group 2017 2022
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Total, 15 years and over 22.3 22.0 22.6 27.0Note * 26.6 27.3
15 to 24 years 13.1 12.7 13.6 20.1Note * 19.5 20.7
25 to 44 years 15.3 14.9 15.7 20.5Note * 19.9 21.1
45 to 64 years 24.3 23.7 25.0 27.7Note * 27.0 28.3
65 to 74 years 32.0 31.0 33.0 35.0Note * 34.0 36.0
75 years and over 47.4 45.9 48.8 49.2 47.8 50.5
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Global severity class

A global severity score was developed for the CSD, which was calculated for each person using: a) the number of disability types that a person has, b) the level of difficulty experienced in performing certain tasks, and c) the frequency of activity limitations. To simplify the concept of severity, four severity classes were established: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. Note that the name assigned to each class is intended to facilitate use of severity score and is not label or judgement concerning the person’s level of disability.

For more information, see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2022: Concepts and Methods Guide (Pianosi et al., 2023).

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One in five are classified as having “very severe” disabilities

Of the nearly 8 million persons with disabilities in Canada in 2022, 39% were classified as having a mild disability; 20% had a moderate disability; 20% had a severe disability; and 21% had a very severe disability (Chart 1.3; Table 1.2.A). Women were more likely than men to have severe or very severe disabilities (21% versus 19%, and 22% versus 20%, respectively), and less likely to have mild disabilities (38% versus 41%). The distribution of severity classes in 2022 was similar to that of 2017, both in the overall population and when analyzed by gender.

Chart 1.3 Disability severity among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by gender, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.3 
Data table for chart 1.3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.3. The information is grouped by Disability severity (appearing as row headers), Total, all genders, Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability severity Total, all genders Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Mild 39.0 38.0 40.1 37.7Note * 36.3 39.1 40.8 39.2 42.5
Moderate 19.8 18.9 20.8 19.2 18.0 20.4 20.7 19.3 22.2
Severe 20.0 19.1 20.9 21.1Note * 19.9 22.4 18.6 17.3 19.9
Very severe 21.1 20.2 22.0 22.0Note * 20.8 23.3 19.9 18.7 21.2

Proportion of severe or very severe disabilities increases with age

Among persons with disabilities, the distribution of severity classes varied across age groups in 2022. For example, the proportion of persons with a mild disability ranged from 48% among youth aged 15 to 24 years to 27% among those aged 75 years and over (Chart 1.4; Table 1.2.A). In contrast, the proportion of persons with a very severe disability ranged from 13% among youth aged 15 to 24 years to 32% among those aged 75 years and over.  Findings for disability severity by age groups were similar to results from the 2017 CSD.

Chart 1.4 Disability severity among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.4 
Data table for chart 1.4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.4. The information is grouped by Age group and disability severity (appearing as row headers), Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group and disability severity Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper
15 to 24 years
Mild 47.9 45.4 50.3
Moderate 20.0 18.1 22.1
Severe 18.9 17.2 20.7
Very severe 13.3 11.8 15.0
25 to 44 years
Mild 48.6 46.5 50.7
Moderate 19.9 18.2 21.7
Severe 17.9 16.3 19.7
Very severe 13.6 12.2 15.2
45 to 64 years
Mild 37.2Note * 35.2 39.4
Moderate 20.3 18.5 22.2
Severe 19.7 18.1 21.5
Very severe 22.8Note * 21.1 24.5
65 to 74 years
Mild 34.2Note * 31.7 36.8
Moderate 20.3 18.2 22.5
Severe 21.9Note * 19.8 24.2
Very severe 23.6Note * 21.5 25.9
75 years and over
Mild 26.5Note * 24.1 29.0
Moderate 18.3 16.1 20.6
Severe 22.9Note * 20.5 25.4
Very severe 32.4Note * 29.8 35.1

1.2 Types of disabilities

Disabilities related to pain, flexibility, mobility, and mental health remain the most common

In 2022, more than one in ten Canadians aged 15 years and over had a disability related to pain (17%), flexibility (11%), mobility (11%) and mental health (10%) (Chart 1.5; Table 1.3.A), making these the most common disability types in 2022. These were also the most prevalent disability types in 2017. These were followed by seeing (7%), hearing (6%), learning (6%), dexterity (5%), and memory (5%) disabilities. Developmental and unknownNote  disabilities were the least prevalent types, representing approximately 2% and 1% of those aged 15 years and over.

Women are more likely than men to have a disability related to pain and mental health

In 2022, the prevalence of disability was higher among women than men across all disability types, except for hearing, learning, and unknown disabilities (Chart 1.5; Table 1.3.A). Pain-related and mental health-related disabilities showed the largest gap (more than 5 percentage points) between women and men.

Chart 1.5 Disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by type of disability and gender, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.5 
Data table for chart 1.5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.5. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), Total, all genders, Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability Total, all genders Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Pain-related 16.7 16.3 17.0 19.3Note * 18.7 19.8 14.0 13.5 14.4
Flexibility 10.9 10.6 11.2 11.8Note * 11.3 12.3 9.9 9.5 10.4
Mobility 10.6 10.3 10.9 12.2Note * 11.8 12.7 8.9 8.5 9.3
Mental health-related 10.4 10.1 10.7 12.9Note * 12.5 13.4 7.8 7.4 8.2
Seeing 7.4 7.1 7.7 8.8Note * 8.3 9.2 5.9 5.6 6.3
Hearing 5.6 5.3 5.9 5.5 5.2 5.9 5.7 5.3 6.1
Learning 5.6 5.4 5.8 5.9Note * 5.6 6.3 5.2 4.9 5.6
Dexterity 5.0 4.7 5.2 5.7Note * 5.3 6.0 4.2 3.9 4.6
Memory 4.9 4.7 5.1 5.5Note * 5.1 5.9 4.3 4.0 4.6
Developmental 1.5 1.4 1.7 1.3Note * 1.2 1.5 1.8 1.6 2.0
Unknown 0.8 0.7 0.9 0.8 0.6 0.9 0.7 0.6 0.9

The most prevalent disability types among working-age adults are related to pain, mental health and flexibility

The prevalence of disability types varied with age. Among youth aged 15 to 24 years, the three most common disability types were mental health-related (14%), learning (9%) and pain-related (7%) disabilities (Chart 1.6; Table 1.4.A). Among adults aged 25 to 64, the three most common disability types were related to pain (15%), mental health (11%) and flexibility (9%). Among seniors aged 65 years and over, the most common disability types were related to pain (28%), mobility (26%) and flexibility (24%). The top three disability types within each age group were the same in 2017.

Chart 1.6 Disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by type of disability and age group, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.6 
Data table for chart 1.6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.6. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), 15 to 24 years, 25 to 64 years, 65 years and over, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability 15 to 24 years 25 to 64 years 65 years and over
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Pain-related 6.7 6.2 7.3 15.2Note * 14.8 15.7 27.6Note * 26.8 28.5
Flexibility 2.0 1.7 2.3 8.6Note * 8.2 9.0 23.7Note * 22.9 24.6
Mobility 2.0 1.7 2.3 7.6Note * 7.3 7.9 25.5Note * 24.6 26.4
Mental health-related 13.6 13.0 14.2 11.1Note * 10.7 11.5 6.1Note * 5.6 6.7
Seeing 4.3 3.9 4.7 6.7Note * 6.4 7.1 11.4Note * 10.7 12.1
Hearing 1.5 1.2 1.7 3.9Note * 3.6 4.2 13.6Note * 12.8 14.4
Learning 9.2 8.6 9.8 5.3Note * 5.0 5.6 4.1Note * 3.6 4.5
Dexterity 1.2 1.0 1.4 3.7Note * 3.5 4.0 11.3Note * 10.6 12.1
Memory 4.0 3.6 4.4 4.5Note * 4.3 4.8 6.6Note * 6.0 7.2
Developmental 3.8 3.4 4.1 1.4Note * 1.2 1.6 0.6Note * 0.4 0.7
Unknown 0.4 0.3 0.6 0.7Note * 0.6 0.8 1.2Note * 0.9 1.5

Prevalence of all disability types increased between 2017 and 2022, with mental health-related disabilities increasing the most

Since 2017, the prevalence of all disability types increased among the Canadian population (Chart 1.7; Table 1.3.A). The largest increases occurred for mental health-related (3 percentage points), pain-related (2 percentage points) and seeing (2 percentage points) disabilities.

Chart 1.7 Disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by type of disability, 2017 and 2022

Data table for Chart 1.7 
Data table for chart 1.7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.7. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), 2017, 2022, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability 2017 2022
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Pain-related 14.5 14.2 14.8 16.7Note * 16.3 17.0
Flexibility 10.0 9.7 10.2 10.9Note * 10.6 11.2
Mobility 9.6 9.3 9.8 10.6Note * 10.3 10.9
Mental health-related 7.2 7.0 7.5 10.4Note * 10.1 10.7
Seeing 5.4 5.2 5.7 7.4Note * 7.1 7.7
Hearing 4.8 4.5 5.0 5.6Note * 5.3 5.9
Learning 3.9 3.8 4.1 5.6Note * 5.4 5.8
Dexterity 4.6 4.4 4.8 5.0Note * 4.7 5.2
Memory 3.8 3.6 3.9 4.9Note * 4.7 5.1
Developmental 1.1 1.0 1.2 1.5Note * 1.4 1.7
Unknown 0.6 0.5 0.6 0.8Note * 0.7 0.9

Mental health-related disabilities showed the largest increase in prevalence for women (4 percentage points) and men (2 percentage points) (Table 1.3.A). This was also the case among youth aged 15 to 24 years (6 percentage points) and adults aged 25 to 64 years (4 percentage points). Among persons aged 65 years and over, seeing disabilities had the largest increase (2 percentage points) between 2017 and 2022 (Table 1.4.A).

Young women are more than twice as likely as young men to have a mental health-related disability

In 2022, one in five (19%) women aged 15 to 24 years had a mental health-related disability, compared to one in ten (9%) men in the same age group (Chart 1.8; Table 1.5.A). The prevalence of mental health-related disabilities was also higher among women than men in most other age groups, except for those aged 65 to 74 years and 75 years and over. However, the gap in rates among women and men narrowed with age due to a decrease in the proportion of women with mental health-related disabilities in older age groups. This is a similar pattern to 2017.

Chart 1.8 Mental health-related disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by gender and age group, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.8 
Data table for chart 1.8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.8. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), Total, all genders, Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group Total, all genders Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Total, 15 years and over 10.4 10.1 10.7 12.9 12.5 13.4 7.8 7.4 8.2
15 to 24 years 13.6 13.0 14.2 19.1 18.0 20.1 8.5 7.7 9.3
25 to 44 years 11.9Note * 11.4 12.5 14.9Note * 14.0 15.7 8.9 8.2 9.7
45 to 64 years 10.3Note * 9.7 10.9 12.7Note * 11.8 13.6 7.9 7.1 8.8
65 to 74 years 6.5Note * 5.8 7.2 7.3Note * 6.3 8.4 5.6Note * 4.7 6.7
75 years and over 5.5Note * 4.7 6.4 6.0Note * 4.9 7.3 4.9Note * 3.8 6.3

Rate of mental health-related disabilities has increased most for young women

The prevalence of mental health-related disabilities increased between 2017 and 2022 for most age groups, except for those aged 65 years and over (Chart 1.9; Table 1.5.A). This finding held across genders, but was particularly pronounced among young women. The largest increase in mental health-related disabilities occurred among women aged 15 to 24 years, for whom the rate doubled since 2017 (an increase of 9 percentage points). In contrast, the largest increase in the rate of mental health-related disabilities among men was for those aged 25 to 44 (4 percentage points).

Chart 1.9 Mental health-related disability rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by age group, 2017 and 2022

Data table for Chart 1.9 
Data table for chart 1.9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.9. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), 2017, 2022, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group 2017 2022
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Total, 15 years and over 7.2 7.0 7.5 10.4 10.1 10.7
15 to 24 years 7.8 7.4 8.3 13.6 13.0 14.2
25 to 44 years 7.4 7.0 7.7 11.9Note * 11.4 12.5
45 to 64 years 7.9 7.4 8.3 10.3Note * 9.7 10.9
65 to 74 years 5.6Note * 5.0 6.3 6.5Note * 5.8 7.2
75 years and over 5.0Note * 4.2 5.9 5.5Note * 4.7 6.4

Over two-thirds of persons with disabilities have two or more co-occurring disability types

In 2022, 29% of persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over had one type of disability; 37% had two or three disability types; and 34% had four or more disability types (Chart 1.10; Table 1.6.A). In addition, women were more likely than men to have a higher number of co-occurring disability types.

Chart 1.10 Number of disability types among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by gender, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.10 
Data table for chart 1.10
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.10 Number of disability types, 1 disability type, 2 or 3 disability types, 4 or more disability types, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Number of disability types
1 disability type 2 or 3 disability types 4 or more disability types
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Total, all genders 29.4 28.4 30.4 36.7 35.6 37.8 33.9 32.9 34.9
Women+ 28.0Note * 26.7 29.3 36.8 35.4 38.1 35.2Note * 33.8 36.7
Men+ 31.3 29.6 33.0 36.5 34.9 38.3 32.2 30.6 33.8

The number of co-occurring disability types tended to increase with age. For example, seniors aged 75 years and older were more than twice as likely as youth aged 15 to 24 years to have four or more disability types (47% versus 20%) (Chart 1.11; Table 1.6.A). The distribution of the number of co-occurring disability types in 2022 mirrored that of 2017, both in the overall population of persons with disabilities, and when analyzed by gender or age groups.

Chart 1.11 Number of disability types among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group, 2022

Data table for Chart 1.11 
Data table for chart 1.11
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1.11. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), 1 disability type, 2 or 3 disability types, 4 or more disability types, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group 1 disability type 2 or 3 disability types 4 or more disability types
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
15 to 24 years 36.5 34.1 39.0 43.2 40.7 45.7 20.3 18.4 22.2
25 to 44 years 37.7 35.6 39.8 38.3Note * 36.2 40.5 24.0Note * 22.2 25.9
45 to 64 years 27.6Note * 25.7 29.6 34.9Note * 32.9 37.0 37.5Note * 35.5 39.5
65 to 74 years 24.2Note * 21.9 26.6 37.5Note * 34.9 40.2 38.3Note * 35.8 40.9
75 years and over 20.7Note * 18.3 23.2 32.5Note * 29.9 35.2 46.8Note * 44.0 49.6

Section 2: Employment

This section examines labour market characteristics for working-age adults (aged 25 to 64 years) and youth (aged 15 to 24 years) as well as persons aged 65 to 69 years with disabilities. Differences in employment rates by disability characteristics, age groups, and educational attainment are discussed. In addition, the potential size of the labour force with disabilities in an inclusive, accessible, and accommodating labour market, is explored. Where relevant, comparisons between 2017 and 2022 CSD are provided to highlight changes over time.

It is important to note that while the CSD data were collected in 2017 and 2022, the information regarding labour force status presented in this section (unless otherwise noted) comes from the 2016 and 2021 Census of Population.  Therefore, the data reflects the reference weeks for the censuses, May 1 to May 7, 2016, and May 2 to May 8, 2021.Note  For more information, see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2022: Concepts and Methods Guide (Pianosi et al., 2023).

2.1 Employment rates among adults aged 25 to 64 years

Persons with mild disabilities are more than twice as likely to be employed as those with very severe disabilities

Consistent with previous research on the employment experiences of persons with disabilities, adults with disabilities had lower rates of employment in 2021 than those without disabilities. Among those aged 25 to 64 years, three in five (62%) persons with disabilities were employed compared to almost four in five (78%) persons without disabilities (Chart 2.1; Table 2.1.A). The results also showed that employment rates decreased as the severity of disability increased. In particular, persons with very severe disabilities had a much lower employment rate than persons with mild disabilities (30% versus 75%).

Employment rates among persons with disabilities increased between 2016 and 2021

Between 2016 and 2021, the employment rate for persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years increased from 59% to 62%. While the employment rates for persons with mild or very severe disabilities remained relatively unchanged, the rates for persons with moderate or severe disabilities increased by about 5 percentage points each (Chart 2.1; Table 2.1.A). In contrast, the employment rate for persons without disabilities in the same age group decreased from 80% to 78% over the same time period.

Chart 2.1 Employment rate among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity, 2016 and 2021

Data table for Chart 2.1 
Data table for chart 2.1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.1 2016, 2021, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
2016 2021
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Disability status
Persons with disabilities 59.4 57.9 60.8 61.8Note * 60.3 63.3
Persons without disabilities 80.1 79.7 80.6 77.8Note * 77.3 78.3
Disability severity
Mild 75.6 73.2 77.8 74.9 72.5 77.1
Moderate 66.5 63.2 69.7 71.4Note * 68.1 74.5
Severe 49.0 45.6 52.4 54.5Note * 50.9 58.0
Very severe 31.3 28.6 34.2 29.9 26.9 33.2

For ease of discussion, the rest of this article combines the “mild” and “moderate” categories into a “milder” severity class, and the “severe” and “very severe” categories into a “more severe” severity class.

Three in ten persons with more severe disabilities aged 55 to 64 years were employed

Employment rates varied across age groups for persons with and without disabilities. Among those with disabilities, employment rates were lower among those aged 55 to 64 years compared to those aged 25 to 34 years regardless of severity (Chart 2.2; Table 2.2.A). In contrast, employment rates for persons with disabilities aged 35 to 44 years and 45 to 54 years were generally higher than among their younger counterparts, except for those aged 45 to 54 years with more severe disabilities. Persons without disabilities followed a similar pattern in employment rates by age group, with higher rates among those aged 35 to 54 years relative to those aged 25 to 34 years, and a lower rate for those aged 55 to 64 years.

Chart 2.2 Employment rate among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and age group, 2021

Data table for Chart 2.2 
Data table for chart 2.2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.2. The information is grouped by Age group and disability status / severity (appearing as row headers), Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group and disability status / severity Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper
25 to 34 years
Total, persons with disabilities 65.1 61.9 68.1
Persons with milder disabilities 74.3 70.5 77.8
Persons with more severe disabilities 43.4 38.2 48.8
Persons without disabilities 78.2 77.2 79.1
35 to 44 years
Total, persons with disabilities 71.3Note * 68.3 74.1
Persons with milder disabilities 80.8Note * 77.3 83.8
Persons with more severe disabilities 52.1Note * 47.0 57.3
Persons without disabilities 82.5Note * 81.6 83.4
45 to 54 years
Total, persons with disabilities 67.8 64.5 70.9
Persons with milder disabilities 79.2 74.9 82.9
Persons with more severe disabilities 50.6 45.2 55.9
Persons without disabilities 84.0Note * 83.0 84.9
55 to 64 years
Total, persons with disabilities 49.2Note * 46.5 52.0
Persons with milder disabilities 63.5Note * 59.7 67.1
Persons with more severe disabilities 31.4Note * 27.8 35.2
Persons without disabilities 66.2Note * 65.1 67.4

When examined by gender, women and men with disabilities had similar employment rates for most age groups, except for those aged 55 to 64 years where women were less likely to be employed than men (46% versus 53%) (Chart 2.3; Table 2.2.A).  Similarly, among those with milder disabilities, the employment rate for women aged 55 to 64 years (58%) was lower than that of men (70%) (Table 2.2.A). However, the opposite was observed among those with milder disabilities aged 25 to 34 years, where women had a higher employment rate than men (78% versus 69%). No significant gender differences in employment rates were found for any of the age groups among those with more severe disabilities. In contrast, among those without disabilities, employment rates for women were consistently lower than for men across all age groups.

Chart 2.3 Employment rate among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status, age group and gender, 2021

Data table for Chart 2.3 
Data table for chart 2.3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.3. The information is grouped by Disability status and age group (appearing as row headers), Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status and age group Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Persons with disabilities
25 to 34 years 66.8 62.6 70.7 62.4 57.3 67.4
35 to 44 years 72.0 68.3 75.4 70.4 65.6 74.8
45 to 54 years 65.7 61.2 69.9 70.4 65.2 75.1
55 to 64 years 46.3Note * 42.5 50.1 52.8 48.8 56.9
Persons without disabilities
25 to 34 years 73.9Note * 72.3 75.4 82.1 80.8 83.4
35 to 44 years 77.5Note * 76.0 78.9 87.3 86.2 88.4
45 to 54 years 81.1Note * 79.6 82.6 86.7 85.4 87.9
55 to 64 years 61.3Note * 59.6 62.9 71.2 69.6 72.8

Employment rate among younger women with more severe disabilities decreased between 2016 and 2021

While the overall employment rate for persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years increased by 2 percentage points between 2016 and 2021, this finding was not consistent when the results were examined by gender, age group and disability severity. In fact, men aged 45 to 54 years with more severe disabilities were the only subgroup where a significant increase in employment rate (from 41%Note E: Use with caution to 56%Note E: Use with caution) was observed. In contrast, the employment rate of women with more severe disabilities aged 25 to 34 years decreased from 59% to 43%. There were no significant differences in employment rates of persons with milder disabilities between 2016 and 2021.

Higher levels of education are associated with higher rates of employment among persons with disabilities

Previous research has indicated that those with higher levels of education are more likely to be employed (Statistics Canada, 2024; Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2020; Till et al., 2015). In 2021, employment rates were lowest among those with high school or less regardless of disability status, gender, and severity (Chart 2.4; Table 2.3.A). Among persons with disabilities, those who had a university degree (bachelor’s degree or higher) had an employment rate that was 34 percentage points higher than that of their counterparts with high school or less (79% versus 45%). Educational attainment also played a role in employment rates among persons without disabilities, but the differences were not as pronounced.

Chart 2.4 Employment rate among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status and highest level of education, 2021

Data table for Chart 2.4 
Data table for chart 2.4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.4. The information is grouped by Highest level of education (appearing as row headers), Persons with disabilities, Persons without disabilities, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Highest level of education Persons with disabilities Persons without disabilities
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
High (secondary) school diploma or equivalency certificate, or less 45.0Note * 42.6 47.5 68.1 67.1 69.1
Postsecondary certificate or diploma below bachelor levelData table for chart 2.4 Note 1 66.2Note * 63.6 68.6 81.3 80.4 82.1
Bachelor's degree or higher 79.4Note * 76.7 81.8 82.7 81.9 83.5

Persons with disabilities were less likely to be employed than persons without disabilities across all levels of education, although the gap in employment rates decreased with higher levels of education.Note  Among those with high school education or less, 45% of persons with disabilities were employed compared to 68% of persons without disabilities. This discrepancy in employment rates decreased among those with a postsecondary certificate or diploma below bachelor level (66% and 81% among persons with and without disabilities, respectively), and those with a bachelor's degree or higher (79% and 83%).

While gender differences in employment rates persisted among persons without disabilities regardless of their level of education, this was not the case for persons with disabilities. In fact, women and men with disabilities had equal levels of employment in most cases, except for those whose highest level of education was high school or less. In this case, women were less likely to be employed than men (42% versus 49%) (Chart 2.5; Table 2.3.A).

Chart 2.5 Employment rate among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status, gender and highest level of education, 2021

Data table for Chart 2.5 
Data table for chart 2.5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.5. The information is grouped by Disability status and highest level of education (appearing as row headers), Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status and highest level of education Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Persons with disabilities
High (secondary)
school diploma
or equivalency
certificate, or less
41.5Note * 38.2 44.9 49.0 45.3 52.7
Postsecondary certificate or diploma below bachelor levelData table for chart 2.5 Note 1 65.2 61.8 68.5 67.4 63.3 71.2
Bachelor's degree
or higher
79.1 75.7 82.1 79.8 75.4 83.6
Persons without disabilities
High (secondary) school diploma or equivalency certificate, or less 59.8Note * 58.3 61.3 74.6 73.3 76.0
Postsecondary certificate or diploma below bachelor levelData table for chart 2.5 Note 1 77.2Note * 75.8 78.4 84.9 83.8 85.9
Bachelor's degree
or higher
79.6Note * 78.4 80.6 86.4 85.4 87.4
Start of text box
Text box 4
Among persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, one in four indicated that the cause of their condition was work-related

In 2022, the CSD asked respondents a series of questions about the medical conditions or health problems that caused them the most difficulty or limitations in their daily activities. Among persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who specified a medical conditionNote  , almost one-quarter (24%) reported that one of the underlying causes of their condition was work-related. This includes, for example, accidents or injuries at work, stress or violence in the workplace, and exposure to chemicals. Men were more likely than women to report a work-related cause of their condition (30% versus 19%).

End of text box

2.2 Part-time employment among adults aged 25 to 64 years

Prevalence of part-time work is higher among workers with more severe disabilities

Among employed persons aged 25 to 64 years, persons with disabilities were more likely to work part-time (less than 30 hours/week) than their counterparts without disabilities (16% versus 13%) (Table 2.4.A). This was particularly evident among men with more severe disabilities, who were almost twice as likely to have been working part-time (14%) as men without disabilities (8%). Likewise, women with more severe disabilities were more likely (23%) than their counterparts without disabilities (18%) to have been part-time workers. Men with milder disabilities were slightly more likely to work part-time than their counterparts without disabilities (11% versus 8%), whereas no such difference was found among women (Chart 2.6).

Chart 2.6 Part-time employment rate among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and gender, 2021

Data table for Chart 2.6 
Data table for chart 2.6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.6. The information is grouped by Disability status / severity (appearing as row headers), Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status / severity Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Total, persons with disabilities 18.7Note * 16.8 20.8 11.9 10.1 14.0
Persons with milder disabilities 17.3Note * 15.1 19.6 11.4 9.4 13.7
Persons with more severe disabilities 23.1Note * 19.4 27.3 13.9 10.3 18.5
Persons without disabilities 17.8Note * 17.0 18.6 8.0 7.5 8.6

2.3 Potential to work among non-employed adults aged 25 to 64 years with disabilities

Given the lower rate of employment for persons with disabilities noted above (Section 2.1), it is useful to provide an indication of the total size of the potential labour force with disabilities under the best-case scenario—an inclusive labour market without discrimination, with full accessibility and accommodation. As one way to examine how the labour market might change under these more inclusive conditions, work potential describes non-working persons with disabilities who might be likely to enter paid employment under this best-case scenario. It is not an attempt to measure one’s internal capacity, ability to work, or even likelihood of finding employment under current conditions. Improving our understanding of the population of potential workers could aid in better targeting for labour market programs.

More than 741,000 persons with disabilities have potential for paid employment in an inclusive labour market

Among those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were not employed in 2022, two in five (42%) could be considered as having work potentialNote  (see Text box 5 for more information). This translates into 741,280 persons with disabilities who were not working but had the potential to work.Note 

Among non-working adults with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, the proportion classified as having work potential was similar for women and men (41% versus 43%). In terms of absolute numbers, women with work potential outnumbered men (423,580 versus 317,710).

Start of text box
Text box 5
Defining work potential

Work potential is a concept used to assess the potential size of the labour force with disabilities in an inclusive, accessible, and accommodating labour market. It applies to persons with disabilities not currently working who might be likely to enter paid employment under the best-case scenario, i.e., an inclusive labour market without discrimination, with full accessibility and accommodation. It is not an attempt to measure individuals’ capacity or ability to work. It is rather a way to examine how the labour market might change under more inclusive conditions.

The work potential concept was measured as follows: persons 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 potential workers. Among the remaining respondents who were not in the labour force, those who stated they were “completely retired”, or who said their condition completely prevented them from working and that no workplace accommodation existed that would enable them to work, were classified as not being potential workers. Conversely, those who said that they were not completely retired and that either they were not prevented from working due to their condition, or that workplace accommodations existed that would enable them to work, were classified as potential workers. Work potential was not determined for individuals who could not be explicitly classified into any of the categories above due to incomplete information.

The definition of work potential used in this report differs from the one previously applied by Morris et al. (2018) when analysing the 2017 CSD. In the current definition, students are classified as being potential workers or not depending on other characteristics mentioned above. In the previous definition, students not in the labour force and not looking for work were not classified as either potential workers or non-potential workers, but were excluded from the analysis. Additionally, in the current definition, the work potential of persons who reported that they are housebound due to their condition is determined by the characteristics mentioned above. Previously, persons who were housebound due to their condition were classified as non-potential workers, as it was thought that they were not likely to enter the workforce. Being housebound is not considered in the current definition for two reasons. First, the questions measuring this attribute were not the same in the 2017 and 2022 CSD, posing comparability problems. Secondly, although not all jobs can be done at home, the increase in telework or remote work opportunities since 2020 means that being housebound is less of a decisive factor in determining work potential (Ameri et al. 2023; Ivanchev, 2023; Schur et al. 2020).

End of text box

2.4 Employment and education among youth with disabilities, aged 15 to 24 years

Sections 2.1 to 2.3 explored labour market characteristics of working-age adults with disabilities (aged 25 to 64 years). However, it is also critical to examine youth (aged 15 to 24 years), as those in this age group are typically engaged in several key transitions as they navigate from high school to post-secondary education and/or the work force. Although many young people may find these transitions difficult, those with disabilities can face additional challenges (Lindsay et al. 2019; Hirano et al., 2018). This section focuses on youth who are neither in school nor employed, as those in this group may be experiencing difficulties in making these transitions.

As discussed in Section 1 on demographics, youth with disabilities had a somewhat different profile than working-age adults and seniors. The most prevalent types of disabilities among youth were mental health-related and learning disabilities. This is important to note as it may have implications for the types of challenges faced by youth with disabilities, and the types of accommodations they need to transition successfully into post-secondary education or employment.

Three in ten youth with more severe disabilities are neither in school nor employed

The severity of disability had a strong relationship with school enrolment and employment among youth. For example, youth aged 15 to 24 years with more severe disabilities were more than twice as likely as those with milder disabilities to be neither in school nor employedNote  in 2022 (Chart 2.7; Table 2.5.A). Moreover, persons with more severe disabilities in this age group were less likely than those with milder disabilities to be employed during their school enrolment.

Chart 2.7 School enrollment / employment status among youth with disabilities aged 15 to 24 years, by disability severity, 2022

Data table for Chart 2.7 
Data table for chart 2.7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.7. The information is grouped by Disability severity and school enrollment / employment (appearing as row headers), Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability severity and school enrollment / employment Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper
Total, persons with disabilities
In school, employed 27.1 24.9 29.5
In school, not employed 21.9 19.8 24.1
Not in school, employed 33.7 31.3 36.1
Not in school, not employed 17.3 15.6 19.2
Persons with milder disabilities
In school, employed 30.8 27.9 33.9
In school, not employed 20.5 17.9 23.4
Not in school, employed 36.5 33.7 39.5
Not in school, not employed 12.1 10.3 14.2
Persons with more severe disabilities
In school, employed 19.4Note * 16.2 23.0
In school, not employed 24.7 21.4 28.4
Not in school, employed 27.7Note * 24.0 31.8
Not in school, not employed 28.2Note * 24.6 32.1

In addition, among youth with disabilities, men were more likely than women to be neither in school, nor employed (23% versus 13%) (Table 2.5.A). However, this difference was more pronounced among youth with more severe disabilities (39% versus 21%) than it was among youth with milder disabilities (16% versus 9%) (Chart 2.8; Table 2.5.A). Among youth with disabilities, women were also more likely than men to be employed during their school enrolment. This was the case for those with milder and more severe disabilities.

Chart 2.8 School enrolment and employment among youth with disabilities aged 15 to 24 years, by disability severity and gender, 2022

Data table for Chart 2.8 
Data table for chart 2.8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2.8. The information is grouped by Disability severity and school enrollment / employment status (appearing as row headers), Women+, Men+, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability severity and school enrollment / employment status Women+ Men+
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Persons with milder disabilities
In school, employed 35.4Note * 31.5 39.6 24.2 20.4 28.5
In school, not employed 18.8 15.7 22.3 23.1 18.8 27.9
Not in school, employed 36.5 32.7 40.5 36.6 32.1 41.2
Not in school, not employed 9.3Note * 7.4 11.7 16.2 13.0 20.0
Persons with more severe disabilities
In school, employed 24.2Note * 19.8 29.3 12.0 8.2 17.3
In school, not employed 23.4 19.1 28.3 26.7 21.4 32.9
Not in school, employed 31.4Note * 26.5 36.8 22.1 16.8 28.4
Not in school, not employed 21.0Note * 17.1 25.5 39.1 33.0 45.6

114,000 youth with disabilities neither in school nor employed have potential to work

Youth who are neither in school nor employed may be at risk of low‑income or social exclusion (Brunet, 2019). Youth with disabilities may face additional challenges with entry into education or the labour force, given the potential need for education and workplace accommodations, as well as other disability supports. However, there may be considerable potential for youth with disabilities to transition into employment with proper accommodations and supports. Among the 141,980 youth with disabilities who were neither in school nor employed in 2022, 114,490 (or 81%) could be identified as having work potential (53,160 women and 61,340 men).

2.5 Employment among persons with disabilities aged 65 to 69 years

Many individuals with and without disabilities continue to work beyond the typical age of retirement. In 2021, 151,240 persons with disabilities aged 65 to 69 years were employed. However, persons with disabilities were still less likely to be employed than persons without disabilities in this age group (22% versus 29%). Employment rates among persons aged 65 to 69 years also decreased as disability severity increased: 24% of persons with milder disabilities and 18%Note E: Use with caution of persons with more severe disabilities were employed.

These findings remained consistent when examined by gender, however the gap among women with and without disabilities (17% versus 22%, or 5 percentage points) was smaller than that of men with and without disabilities (27% versus 36%, or 9 percentage points). Similarly, women and men with more severe disabilities were less likely than women and men without disabilities to be employed (16% and 21%, versus 22% and 36%). Among women and men, those with milder disabilities were as likely to be employed as those without disabilities. These findings follow the same trends observed in 2016, with no significant differences identified between the two CSD cycles.

Section 3: Income

This section is guided by three questions: First, how does income compare between persons with and without disabilities? Second, using Canada’s Official Poverty Line, how does poverty vary with key characteristics such as disability severity, gender, age, and living arrangements? Third, among those with disabilities who were unable to afford required aids, devices, or medication, does living above the poverty line reduce or eliminate the risk of having unmet disability-related needs due to cost?

Where applicable, comparisons between the 2017 and 2022 CSD are provided to highlight differences between the two periods. In this regard, it is important to note that the income and poverty data included in the 2022 CSD are linked from the Census and pertain to reference year 2020. Likewise, the 2017 CSD provides income and poverty data for reference year 2015. The circumstances brought about by COVID-19 in 2020 must be kept in mind when comparing the two periods.

3.1 Median personal income

Median income of persons with more severe disabilities is one-third less than that of those without disabilities

Among working-age adults (persons aged 25 to 64 years), median personal after-tax incomeNote  (hereafter median income) differed by both disability status and severity. Those without disabilities had a higher median income ($46,080) than persons with disabilities ($38,810). Those with milder disabilities ($44,210) had a higher median income than persons with more severe disabilities ($30,590) (Chart 3.1; Table 3.1). The median income of those with more severe disabilities was over 30 percent less than that of those without disabilities.

Chart 3.1 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 years and over, by disability status / severity and age group, 2020

Data table for Chart 3.1 
Data table for chart 3.1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.1. The information is grouped by Disability status / severity (appearing as row headers), 25 to 64 years, 65 years and over, Dollars and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status / severity 25 to 64 years 65 years and over
Dollars 95% confidence interval Dollars 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Total, persons with disabilities 38,810Note * 37,760 40,570 29,720Note * 29,090 30,860
Persons with milder disabilities 44,210Note * 42,760 45,390 32,370 30,590 33,760
Persons with more severe disabilities 30,590Note * Data table for chart 3.1 Note  29,930 32,580 27,920Note * Data table for chart 3.1 Note  26,530 28,880
Persons without disabilities 46,080 45,720 46,430 33,430 32,830 34,050

Among seniors, persons aged 65 years and over, differences in median income by disability status and severity existed – but to a lesser extent than among those of working-age. Seniors with no disabilities had a higher median income ($33,430) than seniors with disabilities ($29,720). When considering severity of disability, the median income of seniors with milder disabilities ($32,370) was higher than that of persons with more severe disabilities ($27,920), but comparable to that of seniors without disabilities.

Consistent with findings for persons without disabilities, seniors with disabilities had a lower median income than working-age persons with disabilities. This was the case for both seniors with milder and more severe disabilities.

Women have lower levels of income than men

The gender gap in income in the general population has been well-documented over the years (Drolet and Amini, 2023; Bonikowska et al., 2019, and Fox and Moyser, 2018). Among individuals aged 25 to 64 years, the income gap between women and men was significant among those without disabilities as well as those with disabilities (Chart 3.2; Table 3.1). The median income of women with disabilities ($37,010) was 11% less than men with disabilities ($41,580). Among those with milder disabilities, the median income of women ($41,960) was 12% less than men ($47,870). Among those with more severe disabilities, no significant differences were found in median income between women and men. Among those without disabilities, the median income of women ($42,430) was 16% less than men ($50,260).

Among seniors aged 65 years and over, women with disabilities had a median income that was 25% less than men with disabilities ($26,480 versus $35,210). Among seniors with milder disabilities, the gender gap in income was slightly larger, with women’s median income being 28% less than that of men ($27,300 versus $38,080). Among seniors with more severe disabilities, the gender gap in income was slightly smaller, with women’s median income being 19% less than that of men ($26,030 versus $32,090).

Among persons with milder disabilities, the difference in median income between seniors and working-age adults was greater among women ($14,660) than men ($9,790). Among those with more severe disabilities, differences in median income between seniors and working-age adults were not as large among women ($4,490), and were not significant among men.

Chart 3.2 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 years and over, by disability status / severity, age group and gender, 2020

Data table for Chart 3.2 
Data table for chart 3.2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.2. The information is grouped by Age group and disability status / severity (appearing as row headers), Women+, Men+, Dollars and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group and disability status / severity Women+ Men+
Dollars 95% confidence interval Dollars 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
25 to 64 years
Total, persons with disabilities 37,010Note * 35,780 38,300 41,580 39,520 43,060
Persons with milder disabilities 41,960Note * 40,850 43,560 47,870 43,930 51,470
Persons with more severe disabilities 30,510 29,600 34,260 30,760 28,860 33,570
Persons without disabilities 42,430Note * 41,910 42,820 50,260 49,750 50,740
65 years and over
Total, persons with disabilities 26,480Note * 25,310 27,760 35,210 33,950 37,820
Persons with milder disabilities 27,300Note * 25,620 28,280 38,080 34,170 39,080
Persons with more
severe disabilities
26,030Note * 25,220 26,640 32,090 29,900 36,710
Persons without disabilities 28,290Note * 27,410 29,110 39,710 38,630 40,620

Median personal income increased between 2015 and 2020

Between 2015 and 2020, median after-tax personal income (expressed in 2020 constant dollars) increased for persons with and without disabilities, regardless of age or gender.

These increases were greatest among women with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years (+33%), women with disabilities aged 65 years and over (+17%), and men with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years (+17%) (Chart 3.3; Table 3.1).

Chart 3.3 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 years and over, by disability status, age group and gender, 2015 and 2020

Data table for Chart 3.3 
Data table for chart 3.3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.3. The information is grouped by Disability status, age group and gender (appearing as row headers), 2015, 2020, 2020 constant dollars and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status, age group and gender 2015 2020
2020 constant dollars 95% confidence interval 2020 constant dollars 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Persons with disabilities
25 to 64 years
Women+ 27,840 25,740 29,380 37,010Note * 35,780 38,300
Men+ 35,680 33,040 37,090 41,580Note * 39,520 43,060
65 years and over
Women+ 22,590 21,480 23,630 26,480Note * 25,310 27,760
Men+ 32,180 29,550 34,490 35,210Note * 33,950 37,820
Persons without disabilities
25 to 64 years
Women+ 37,870 37,330 38,580 42,430Note * 41,910 42,820
Men+ 48,360 47,530 48,870 50,260Note * 49,750 50,740
65 years and over
Women+ 25,170 24,650 25,550 28,290Note * 27,410 29,110
Men+ 37,270 36,060 38,010 39,710Note * 38,630 40,620

Employed persons with more severe disabilities still have incomes that fall short of those without disabilities

As mentioned above, persons with disabilities exhibited lower median personal incomes than their counterparts without disabilities. The fact that persons with disabilities had lower employment rates than those without disabilities, as shown in Section 2, is likely a key contributing factor to differences in median income between these populations. This raises a question: for persons with disabilities who are employed, does working help close the income gap between them and those without disabilities?

Persons with and without disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were employed for some or all of 2020 had a median personal income more than two-times the amount of their counterparts who were not employed (Chart 3.4; Table 3.2). This pattern was consistent regardless of disability severity. Among employed persons, those without disabilities and those with milder disabilities had similar median incomes ($50,140 and $49,100, respectively), higher than that of persons with more severe disabilities ($42,290).

When limiting the analysis to those who were employed full-time for at least 49 weeks in 2020 (full-year, full-time), median income for persons with milder disabilities was higher than for those with no disabilities ($60,070 versus $58,530). Notably, this result is in contrast to previous findings, which showed that among those who were employed full-time and worked at least 49 weeks in 2015, persons without disabilities had higher median income than those with milder disabilities (Morris et al., 2018).  The median income of full-year, full-time workers with more severe disabilities was 88% of workers with milder disabilities in 2020 ($52,900 versus $60,070), which aligns with previous findings.

Chart 3.4 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and employment status, 2020

Data table for Chart 3.4 
Data table for chart 3.4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.4. The information is grouped by Disability status / severity (appearing as row headers), Not employed, Employed, Employed full-time, full-year, Dollars and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status / severity Not employed Employed Employed full-time, full-year
Dollars 95% confidence interval Dollars 95% confidence interval Dollars 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper lower upper
Total, persons with disabilities 18,980Note * 18,000 19,890 46,950Note * 46,190 48,560 58,920 57,140 59,590
Persons with milder disabilities 19,230Note * 18,400 20,630 49,100 47,780 50,490 60,070Note * 59,040 60,730
Persons with more severe disabilities 18,730Note * 18,330 19,710 42,290Note * Data table for chart 3.4 Note  40,830 43,780 52,900Note * Data table for chart 3.4 Note  50,950 54,530
Persons without disabilities 22,960 22,290 23,860 50,140 49,670 50,540 58,530 58,030 59,140

The largest percentage increase in median personal income between 2015 and 2020 occurred among non-employed

Between 2015 and 2020, the median after-tax personal income of all adults aged 25 to 64 increased, irrespective of disability status. This increase was observed among persons not employed, as well as those employed and those employed full-year, full-time (Chart 3.5; Table 3.2). Notably, the largest percentage increase was observed within the not employed group, where the median personal income among persons without disabilities rose by more than 60% (from $14,020 in 2015 to $22,960 in 2020) and by almost 40% for persons with disabilities (from $13,740 to $18,980). Similarly, median income among persons with milder disabilities increased by 35% (from $14,230 to $19,230), while it increased by 38% (from $13,560 to $18,730) for those with more severe disabilities.

The increase in median income between 2015 and 2020 among all groups, particularly among persons not employed, can be partially attributed to the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addressing the economic challenges of the pandemic, the Government of Canada allocated billions of dollars to implement diverse temporary measures, focusing primarily on income replacement for individuals who were unable to work due to the pandemic (Statistics Canada, 2022). Note that the extent to which temporary income supports contributed to the changes in median income for persons with and without disabilities between 2015 and 2020 is still being evaluated.

Chart 3.5 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and employment status, 2015 and 2020

Data table for Chart 3.5 
Data table for chart 3.5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.5. The information is grouped by Work activity and disability status / severity (appearing as row headers), 2015, 2020, 2020 constant dollars and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Work activity and disability status / severity 2015 2020
2020 constant dollars 95% confidence interval 2020 constant dollars 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Not employed
Total, persons with disabilities 13,740 13,200 14,450 18,980Note * 18,000 19,890
Persons with milder disabilities 14,230 12,580 14,650 19,230Note * 18,400 20,630
Persons with more severe disabilities 13,560 13,500 14,580 18,730Note * 18,330 19,710
Persons without disabilities 14,020 13,430 15,270 22,960Note * 22,290 23,860
Employed
Total, persons with disabilities 40,790 39,480 41,550 46,950Note * 46,190 48,560
Persons with milder disabilities 42,910 41,600 44,770 49,100Note * 47,780 50,490
Persons with more severe disabilities 34,630 31,540 36,430 42,290Note * 40,830 43,780
Persons without disabilities 45,910 45,520 46,470 50,140Note * 49,670 50,540
Employed full-year, full-time
Total, persons with disabilities 49,700 48,910 51,980 58,920Note * 57,140 59,590
Persons with milder disabilities 51,210 49,530 52,530 60,070Note * 59,040 60,730
Persons with more severe disabilities 45,130 39,970 46,970 52,900Note * 50,950 54,530
Persons without disabilities 53,500 52,940 54,280 58,530Note * 58,030 59,140

3.2 Poverty

Persons with disabilities are less likely to experience financial security and more likely to live in poverty than persons without disabilities (Scott et al., 2022; Maroto and Pettinicchio, 2020). This section provides information regarding the extent of poverty among persons with and without disabilities using the Market Basket Measure (MBM) (Text box 6). In 2020, 10% of persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over lived in poverty compared to 7% of their counterparts without disabilities (Table 3.3.A).

Start of text box
Text box 6
Canada’s official poverty line

The Market Basket Measure (MBM) is Canada’s official measure of poverty since 2018. The measure establishes poverty thresholds based on the cost of a specific “basket” of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living (food, clothing, shelter, transportation and other items) for a given region and family size.Note  The disposable income of a family is then compared against its threshold to determine whether the family is “at or above” versus “below.” Individuals in a family living below the threshold are considered to be living in poverty.Note 

Reviews and updates to the MBM are required on a regular basis to ensure that the measure continues to reflect basic living standards over time, and that key parameters are sourced using the latest available data and methods. The most recent methodology for the MBM is the 2018-base MBM, which replaced the previously used 2008-base MBM. The 2018-base MBM included important updates to the shelter, clothing, food, and transportation components of the MBM basket, as well as changes to tenure type adjustment, medical expenses, and treatment of capital gains (Djidel et al., 2020).

The implication of these changes to the MBM methodology is that thresholds for low-income using the 2018-base MBM are higher than those of the 2008-base MBM. As such, poverty rates using the 2018-base MBM will be higher than those using the 2008-base MBM even in instances where family income remains unchanged. For example, Djidel et al. (2020) estimates that the percentage of persons living in poverty Canada-wide increased in 2018 from 8.7% (2008-base MBM) to 11.0% (2018-base MBM).

For the purpose of this paper, the poverty rates are estimated using the 2018-base MBM for both the 2017 and 2022 CSD cycles. Please note that in the previous report entitled “A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017” (Morris et al., 2018), the poverty rates were estimated using the 2008-base MBM and therefore these numbers are not comparable to the estimates presented here.

End of text box

Working-age adults with more severe disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those without disabilities and those with milder disabilities

The poverty rate among persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years was 12% in 2020, compared to 7% among those without disabilities. Persons with more severe disabilities (18%) were more likely to be living below Canada’s official poverty line than those with milder disabilities (8%) (Chart 3.6; Table 3.3.A). As such, the poverty rate for working-age adults with more severe disabilities was more than double that of working-age adults with either milder disabilities or without disabilities.

Youth are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as seniors, regardless of disability severity

Persons with disabilities aged 15 to 24 years had a poverty rate of 12% in 2020, similar to their counterparts without disabilities. Youth with more severe disabilities had a higher rate (15%) than those with milder disabilities (10%). The poverty rate among youth with disabilities (12%) was more than double that of seniors with disabilities (5%). A similar pattern was observed for youth and seniors without disabilities (Chart 3.6; Table 3.3.A).

In general, women with disabilities aged 15 years and over were as likely as men to live in poverty in 2020. Among persons with milder disabilities aged 25 to 64 years however, men had a slightly higher poverty rate than women (9% versus 7%) (Table 3.3.A).

Chart 3.6 Individual Market Basket Measure poverty rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by disability status and age group, 2015 and 2020

Data table for Chart 3.6 
Data table for chart 3.6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.6. The information is grouped by Disability status and age group (appearing as row headers), 2015, 2020, Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status and age group 2015 2020
Percent 95% confidence interval Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper lower upper
Persons with disabilities
15 to 24 years 25.8 23.3 28.4 11.8Note * 10.3 13.4
25 to 64 years 21.9 20.6 23.2 11.7Note * 10.7 12.7
65 years and over 9.5 8.5 10.7 5.1Note * 4.3 6.0
Persons without disabilities
15 to 24 years 18.8 18.1 19.6 11.9Note * 11.3 12.5
25 to 64 years 11.6 11.2 12.0 7.1Note * 6.8 7.4
65 years and over 6.9 6.3 7.4 3.9Note * 3.5 4.3

The poverty rate decreased between 2015 and 2020

Between 2015 and 2020, the poverty rate among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over in Canada decreased from 18% to 10%. Among those without disabilities, the rate decreased from 12% to 7% (Chart 3.6; Table 3.3.A). Among individuals aged 15 to 24 years without disabilities, the poverty rate decreased from 19% in 2015 to 12% in 2020. Similar changes were observed within the same age category for persons with milder disabilities (24% versus 10%) and more severe disabilities (30% versus 15%) between 2015 and 2020. Extending our analysis to individuals aged 25 to 64 and those 65 years and over reveals additional evidence of an overall reduction in poverty among both persons with and without disabilities.  

It is important to acknowledge that the reduction of the poverty rates for persons with and without disabilities between 2015 and 2020 is likely related to the financial assistance provided by the Government of Canada to support Canadians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (Statistics Canada, 2022).

Lone parents and those living alone remain at greater risk of living in poverty

Household living arrangements describe key family structures—and, in particular, the respondent’s place within that structure—for people living within the same household. In general, certain family structures, such as lone parent households and those living alone, have higher risks of living in poverty (Notten et al., 2023; The Daily, 2023b; and Raphael, 2020). As such, the discussion below focuses on the risk of poverty among individuals aged 15 to 64 years living in different household and family structures, and whether the presence of disability increases this risk further.

In 2020, and consistent with findings in the previous CSD, the lowest poverty rates among persons with disabilities were among individuals who were either part of a couple (with or without children) or who were living with parent(s) or guardian(s) as an adult child. However, among individuals who were part of a couple without children, those with more severe disabilities had a poverty rate of 9%, about twice as much as their counterparts with milder disabilities or no disabilities (Chart 3.7; Table 3.4.A).

Lone parentsNote  or those living alone were at the greatest risk of living in poverty. Among those without disabilities, the poverty rate among lone parents was three times higher than that of those in couples without children (13% versus 4%). However, the impact of lone parenthood was greater for those with disabilities (18% of lone parents with disabilities were living below the poverty line), and this was further compounded by severity—23% of lone parents with more severe disabilities were living below the poverty line. It is important to note that close to nine in ten lone parents with disabilities (85%) were women, while among those without disabilities, close to eight in ten lone parents (75%) were women.

Chart 3.7 Individual Market Basket Measure poverty rate among persons aged 15 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and selected household living arrangements, 2020

Data table for Chart 3.7 
Data table for chart 3.7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.7. The information is grouped by Disability status / severity and household living arrangement (appearing as row headers), Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Disability status / severity and household living arrangement Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper
Total, persons with disabilities
Part of couple, no children 6.0Note * 4.7 7.7
Part of couple, with children 3.3 2.4 4.6
Lone parent 18.4Note * 14.5 23.1
Living with parent(s) 4.8 3.7 6.1
Living alone 28.0Note * 25.0 31.3
Persons with milder disabilities
Part of couple, no children 4.5 3.1 6.4
Part of couple, with children 2.5Note * 1.6 3.9
Lone parent 14.1 10.0 19.6
Living with parent(s) 3.9 2.9 5.3
Living alone 18.4 15.2 22.0
Persons with more severe disabilities
Part of couple, no children 9.2Note * Data table for chart 3.7 Note  6.6 12.5
Part of couple, with children 5.0 3.1 8.0
Lone parent 22.7Note * 16.4 30.4
Living with parent(s) 6.2 4.2 8.9
Living alone 42.1Note * Data table for chart 3.7 Note  36.9 47.5
Persons without disabilities
Part of couple, no children 4.3 3.9 4.8
Part of couple, with children 4.3 3.9 4.6
Lone parent 13.3 11.7 15.1
Living with parent(s) 4.0 3.6 4.4
Living alone 17.9 16.6 19.3

Two in five of those living alone with more severe disabilities are living in poverty

Among persons aged 15 to 64 years with disabilities, the rate of poverty of those living alone was more than four times higher than that of persons who were part of a couple without children (28% versus 6%) (Chart 3.7; Table 3.4.A). A similar pattern was observed among persons without disabilities (18% versus 4%). Among those with milder disabilities the rate of poverty for those living alone was more than three times higher than that of those of those who were part of a couple without children (18% versus 5%). Those with more severe disabilities who were living alone had the highest rate of poverty of any group examined, with about two in five living below Canada’s official poverty line (42%).

Between 2015 and 2020, the poverty rate generally decreased among persons with disabilities aged 15 to 64 years, irrespective of their household living arrangements. This was also the case among persons without disabilities. Among persons with disabilities, the largest percentage point decreases occurred for lone parents (from 40% in 2015 to 18% in 2020), and individuals living alone (from 47% to 28%) (Table 3.4.A). As an exception to the overall pattern, the poverty rate of persons with milder disabilities who were part of a couple with no children did not change significantly between 2015 and 2020.

3.3 Unmet needs for disability supports due to cost

Cost is the primary reason behind unmet needs for aids, devices, or healthcare services

The CSD asks several questions regarding needs for various disability supports, including personal aids and devices (e.g., canes, walkers, specialized software, or architectural features in the home such as widened doorways and ramps), prescription medication, as well as access to healthcare services (e.g., counselling services, physiotherapy; see Text box 7).Note 

In 2022, 56% of persons with disabilities, nearly 4.5 million people, reported at least one unmet need when it comes to either aids, devices, medication or healthcare services.  Three-quarters (73%) of persons with unmet needs (or 3.2 million) cited cost as the reason for those unmet needs.

About 2.3 million persons (29% of persons with disabilities) had unmet needs due to cost for healthcare services. Similarly, 1.2 million had unmet needs due to cost for aids and devices (16%), and one million indicated unmet needs due to cost for prescription medication (13%) (Table 3.5.A; Table 3.5B).

Start of text box
Text box 7
Unmet need for disability supports due to cost

“Unmet need due to cost” refers to instances in which persons with disabilities need but do not have at least one type of disability support (such as an aid, medication, or healthcare service) due to cost. As was done in 2017, the 2022 CSD first asked a series of questions on both the need for and use of various disability supports, including personal aids and devices (e.g., canes, walkers, specialized software, or architectural features in the home such as widened doorways and ramps), as well as access to healthcare services (e.g., counselling services and physiotherapy).

Where persons with disabilities identified a specific disability support that they need but do not have, the 2022 CSD asked respondents to choose from a list of possible reasons why the need was unmet such as “cost” or “not available”. If “cost” was selected as one of the reasons for not having at least one disability support they need but do not have then they were counted as having an “unmet need due to cost”.

It is important to note that the questions about prescription medication did not follow this format. Instead, respondents were asked whether they had been unable to get prescription medications because of the cost, or they had taken medication less often than they were supposed to due to cost, at any time in the previous 12 months.

Note on comparability between 2017 and 2022

The list of disability supports was expanded in the 2022 CSD to include additional aids and devices not covered in the 2017 CSD. New questions about reasons for unmet needs for healthcare services were also included in the 2022 CSD. Because of these changes, an analysis of differences in unmet needs between 2017 and 2022 has not been undertaken.

End of text box

Women are more likely to report unmet needs due to cost

Women with disabilities were more likely than men to indicate unmet needs due to cost for health care services (34% versus 22%) and prescription medication (14% versus 10%). Overall, almost half (45%) of women with disabilities reported unmet needs due to cost for either aids, devices, medications, or healthcare services, compared to a third (35%) of men (Chart 3.8; Table 3.5.A).

Chart 3.8 Unmet needs due to cost among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by gender, 2022

Data table for Chart 3.8 
Data table for chart 3.8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.8. The information is grouped by Gender and type of unmet need (appearing as row headers), Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Gender and type of unmet need Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper
Total, all genders
Assistive aids, devices or technologies 15.5 14.7 16.3
Prescription medication 12.5 11.8 13.3
Health care therapies and services 29.1 28.2 30.1
TotalData table for chart 3.8 Note 1 40.7 39.6 41.7
Women+
Assistive aids, devices or technologies 16.0 15.0 17.1
Prescription medication 14.2Note * 13.2 15.3
Health care therapies and services 34.3Note * 33.0 35.6
TotalData table for chart 3.8 Note 1 45.4Note * 44.0 46.8
Men+
Assistive aids, devices or technologies 14.7 13.7 15.9
Prescription medication 10.4 9.4 11.5
Health care therapies and services 22.3 21.0 23.8
TotalData table for chart 3.8 Note 1 34.5 33.0 36.1

Age and severity impact the ability to afford aids, medication and healthcare services

Among persons with disabilities aged 15 to 64 years, 46% (or 2.5 million) had at least one unmet need for an aid, device, prescription medication, and/or healthcare service due to cost. This compares to 30% (or 758,610) among seniors with disabilities aged 65 years and over (Chart 3.9). When broken down by type of disability support, around one in six seniors and non-seniors with disabilities had at least one unmet need for aids or devices due to cost. However, non-seniors were twice as likely as seniors to report unmet needs due to cost when it comes to either prescription medication (15% versus 7%) or healthcare services (35% versus 17%) (Table 3.5.A).

Severity of disability also had an impact on the likelihood of having unmet needs due to cost for disability supports. Among persons with milder disabilities, 32% had at least one unmet need for an aid, device, prescription medication, and/or healthcare service due to cost. This proportion increased to 53% among persons with more severe disabilities. When broken down by type of disability support, persons with more severe disabilities were more likely to report unmet needs due to cost in each instance compared to those with milder disabilities. For example, persons with more severe disabilities (26%) were three times more likely to have unmet needs for aids or devices due to cost than those with milder disabilities (8%).

Chart 3.9 Unmet needs due to cost among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by selected characteristics, 2022

Data table for Chart 3.9 
Data table for chart 3.9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3.9. The information is grouped by Selected characteristics (appearing as row headers), Percent and 95% confidence interval, calculated using lower and upper units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Selected characteristics Percent 95% confidence interval
lower upper
Disability severity
MilderData table for chart 3.9 Note  32.2 30.8 33.5
More severe 52.8Note * 51.1 54.5
Age group
15 to 64 yearsData table for chart 3.9 Note  45.5 44.2 46.8
65 years and over 30.2Note * 28.4 32.0
Poverty status
Not in povertyData table for chart 3.9 Note  39.4 38.3 40.5
In poverty 53.0Note * 49.2 56.7

Two in five of those living above the poverty line still cannot afford all required aids, medication and healthcare services

One in two (53%) persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over who were living below Canada’s official poverty line had at least one unmet need for an aid, device, prescription medication, and/or healthcare service due to cost (Chart 3.9; Table 3.5.A). However, while unmet needs due to cost were lower for those living above Canada’s official poverty line, two in five (39%) still reported at least one unmet need due to cost.

Conclusion

This article provides a broad picture of key insights from the 2022 CSD regarding the demographics, employment, and income characteristics of persons with disabilities, with comparisons to persons without disabilities. This study also provides information on unmet needs for various disability supports due to cost among persons with disabilities including aids and devices, prescription medication, and access to healthcare services. This also marks the first time that – where applicable – comparisons can be made between two cycles of the CSD to highlight important changes over time. Among these insights, several themes emerge in key areas.

Prevalence of disability

The overall rate of disability among Canadians aged 15 years and older increased from 22% to 27% between 2017 and 2022. The disability rate increased during this period for most age groups, except for seniors aged 75 years and over. The largest percentage-point increase occurred among youth aged 15 to 24 followed by adults aged 25 to 44, and 45 to 64 years. The increase in the overall disability rate can be attributed to several factors including a larger representation of seniors in the total population in 2022 due to population aging (seniors have higher disability rates than non-seniors) as well as an increase in disability rates – particularly mental health-related disabilities – among younger persons.

The distribution of the number of co-occurring disability types in 2022 mirrored that of 2017, both in the overall population of persons with disabilities, and when analyzed by gender or age groups.

Prevalence of mental health-related disabilities

While disability rates increased from 2017 to 2022 for all disability types, the largest increase belonged to mental health-related disabilities. This aligns with previous findings related to mental health indicating that the proportion of people reporting very good or excellent mental health has been declining over the past several years (The Daily, 2023c).

While the overall rate of mental health-related disability increased between 2017 and 2022, the change was not uniform across age groups. The rise in mental health-related disabilities was most pronounced among youth aged 15 to 24, followed by adults aged 25 to 44. Among adults aged 45 to 64 there was a less pronounced increase in the mental health-related disability rate, and for seniors aged 65 years and over the increase was not statistically significant. This reinforces the 2017 CSD finding that youth with disabilities have a somewhat different profile compared to working-age adults and seniors with disabilities (Morris et al., 2018).

Employment

Among persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years, the employment rate increased between 2016 and 2021. However, among persons without disabilities, the employment rate decreased during the same time-period. These findings are consistent with recent Labour Force Survey (LFS) data on the employment experiences of persons with disabilities (The Daily, 2023d).

Despite the increase in the employment rate of working-age adults with disabilities (aged 25 to 64) from 2016 to 2021, they were still less likely to be employed in 2021 than their counterparts without disabilities.Note 

Median personal income, poverty and unmet needs for disability supports

Between 2015 and 2020, median personal after-tax income increased for both persons with and without disabilities. This holds true for working-age adults aged 25 to 64 and seniors aged 65 years and over, regardless of their disability status. Poverty rates also decreased significantly among Canadians with and without disabilities aged 15 years and over during this period. These findings align with recent data from the 2021 Census of Population which also showed a decrease in the poverty rate among the general population (Statistics Canada, 2021).

It is important to note that the higher incomes and lower poverty rates observed among persons with and without disabilities in 2020, relative to 2015, can be partially attributed to the exceptional circumstances brought about by COVID-19. Most notably, during the pandemic, the Government of Canada  introduced emergency financial support measures for Canadians who were negatively impacted (Government of Canada, 2022b). Most of the pandemic relief benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), were temporary and focused on income replacement for individuals who were not able to work because of individual COVID-19 health impacts or the related public health measures (The Daily, 2022; Government of Canada, 2022b; Statistics Canada, 2022; Morissette et al., 2021). Most of these COVID-19 income support programs ended by fall 2021 (the CERB ended in September 2020 and the Canada Recovery Benefit in October 2021) (Statistics Canada, 2021). Results from the Canadian Income Survey indicate that the poverty rates increased in 2021 relative to 2020 among persons with disabilities and among the general population, although they remained lower than before the pandemic (The Daily, 2023b).

Finally, this study revealed that more than half of Canadians with disabilities had at least one unmet need for disability supports, including aids and devices, prescription medication, and access to healthcare services in 2022. Cost was reported as the primary reason behind many unmet needs. Women, youth, persons with more severe disabilities and persons living below Canada’s official poverty line had the highest rates of unmet needs due to cost. Even among persons with disabilities who lived above the poverty line, two in five were unable to afford at least one type of disability support that they required due to cost.

Future research

There are a number of gaps in our knowledge around factors associated with the changes between 2017 and 2022 mentioned in this report that would benefit from further research. For example, while this report revealed an increase in the prevalence of all disability types – in particular mental health-related disabilities –, examining the reasons behind these changes was beyond its scope. In this case, future research could investigate the factors associated with having mental health-related disabilities, and whether these factors changed between 2017 and 2022.

Similarly, the rise in the employment rate among persons with disabilities during this period is yet to be fully understood. Examining the changes in labour force composition, including the extent to which changes in employment among persons with disabilities were a result of new entrants to the work force, as well as changes in the prevalence of disabilities among those already employed could contribute to the understanding of the labour force outcomes for persons with disabilities.

Finally, examining income sources over time could support a deeper understanding of the variations in income and poverty among Canadians with disabilities highlighted in this report. Future research could include investigating the extent to which financial assistance provided to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed – among other factors – to the increase in income and the decrease in poverty observed in 2020.

Detailed data tables

Table 1.1.A Persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.1.B Persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.2.A Disability severity among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.2.B Disability severity among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.3.A Persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by gender and disability type, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.3.B Persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by gender and disability type, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.4.A Persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and disability type, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.4.B Persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and disability type, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.5.A Persons with mental health-related disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.5.B Persons with mental health-related disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.6.A Number of disabilities among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 1.6.B Number of disabilities among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by age group and gender, 2017 and 2022

Table 2.1.A Employment among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status and severity, 2016 and 2021

Table 2.1.B Employment among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status and severity, 2016 and 2021

Table 2.2.A Employment among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity, age group, and gender, 2021

Table 2.2.B Employment among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity, age group, and gender, 2021

Table 2.3.A Employment among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity, highest level of education, and gender, 2021

Table 2.3.B Employment among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity, highest level of education, and gender, 2021

Table 2.4.A Hours worked among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and gender, 2021

Table 2.4.B Hours worked among persons aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and gender, 2021

Table 2.5.A School enrolment / employment status among youth with disabilities aged 15 to 24 years, by disability severity and gender, 2022

Table 2.5.B School enrolment / employment status among youth with disabilities aged 15 to 24 years, by disability severity and gender, 2022

Table 3.1 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 years and over, by disability status / severity, age group and gender, 2015 and 2020

Table 3.2 Median after-tax income of individuals aged 25 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and work activity, 2015 and 2020

Table 3.3.A Individual Market Basket Measure poverty rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by disability status / severity, age group and gender, 2015 and 2020

Table 3.3.B Individual Market Basket Measure poverty rate among persons aged 15 years and over, by disability status / severity, age group and gender, 2015 and 2020

Table 3.4.A Individual Market Basket Measure poverty rate among persons aged 15 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and selected household living arrangements, 2015 and 2020

Table 3.4.B Individual Market Basket Measure poverty rate among persons aged 15 to 64 years, by disability status / severity and selected household living arrangements, 2015 and 2020

Table 3.5.A Unmet needs due to cost for assistive aids, devices or technologies, medication, or healthcare services among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by selected characteristics, 2022

Table 3.5.B Unmet needs due to cost for assistive aids, devices or technologies, medication, or healthcare services among persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, by selected characteristics, 2022

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