Understanding Disabilities

Human Limitations and Disabilities

There are many reasons why people may be experiencing varying degrees of auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities. For instance, some may have disabilities from birth, an illness, disease, or accident, or they may develop impairments with age. Some may not consider themselves to have disabilities even if they do experience such functional limitations.
W3C: How People with Disabilities Use the Web

Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General:
Disability is part of the human condition. Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life. We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society.

International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is the WHO framework for measuring health and disability at both individual and population levels. ICF was officially endorsed by all 191 World Health Organization (WHO) Member States in the Fifty-fourth World Health Assembly on 22 May 2001 (resolution WHA 54.21) as the international standard to describe and measure health and disability.

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) was passed in 2019 with the intention of creating a barrier-free Canada by 2040. The Canadian Survey on Disability 2022 showed that 27% of Canadians aged 15 years and older (8.0 million people) had one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities. The rate of disability in Canada has increased by 5 percentage points since 2017, which can be partially attributed to both the aging population and the large increase in mental health-related disabilities among youth and working-age adults. Persons with disabilities often have multiple co-occurring disability types. As individuals age, they are more likely to experience a higher number of co-occurring disabilities. In 2022, 29% of Canadians with a disability had one disability type, 37% had two or three, and 34% had four or more.

  • 20% of youth, aged 15 to 24 years, had a disability; An increase of 7 percentage points over 2017.
  • 24% of the working-age population, 25 to 64 years, reported having a disability; An increase of 7 percentage points over 2017.
  • 40% of seniors, 65 years and older, experienced an increase in the rate of disability; An increase of 3 percentage points from 2017.
  • 62% of working-age adults with disabilities were employed, compared with 78% of persons without disabilities; An increase of 3 percentage points from 2017.
  • 72% of persons with disabilities (6 in 10) reported in 2022 that they experienced 1 or more barriers related to accessing indoor and outdoor public spaces.
A report which uses data from the 2022 CSD to further explore the accessibility experiences of persons with disabilities in Canada will be released in support of the 2024 National AccessAbility Week, taking place from May 26 to June 1, 2024.

The Disability Challenge