Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Disability Supports

Disability supports comprise a crucial but sorely neglected area of Canadian public policy.
Quality health care always ranks near the top of the issues that matter to Canadians. Supports for persons with disabilities, by contrast, rarely figure prominently on any policy radar screen. In fact, they never seem to make any list despite their importance to us all.

Policy Objective

The objective of the policy options proposed in this paper is to enhance both the supply and quality of disability supports throughout the country.

Current Status

Disability supports refer to the goods and services that enable people to live independently in communities and help them stay out of hospitals, group homes and long-term care institutions.1 These supports are considered essential to the 3.8 million Canadians — close to 14 percent of the adult population — formally identified in 2012 as limited in their daily activities due to a disability [Statistics Canada 2013].

But disability supports are relevant to far more than this designated population. They also provide crucial assistance to hundreds of thousands of elderly individuals not formally classified as having a disability. This is potentially a very large group. Canada is aging rapidly; 25 percent of the population will be over age 65 by 2030.

Continue Reading

While many Canadians remain active and healthy well into their senior years, the incidence of disability rises with age:

… 2.3 million working-age Canadians (15 to 64), or 10.1 percent, reported having a disability in 2012, compared to 33.2 percent of Canadian seniors − those ages 65 or older. Within the working-age population, those reporting a disability was 4.4 percent for people ages 15 to 24; 6.5 percent for those 25 to 44; and 16.1 percent for those 45 to 64. This proportion reaches 26.3 percent for those ages 65 to 74 and 42.5 percent among those 75 and older [Statistics Canada 2013].

Disability supports comprise a vital component of the community care system that enables elderly Canadians to live at home for longer periods and out of residential facilities, if they choose. These goods and services can also relieve heavy pressures and costs on the formal health care system. While disability supports are essential to ensuring a good quality of life for persons with disabilities, they represent a public issue relevant to the entire population.

This paper presents several policy options for improving both the quality and quantity of disability supports. It is of interest that several nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, have formulated long-term disability strategies. These involve a set of linked measures that fall within the purview of different government departments. Canada might consider a similar approach in order to coordinate the myriad actions required for the more effective provision of disability supports.

View PDF


Sherri Torjman

Release Date

May 25, 2015

Release No.