Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report
Women with Disabilities

by Amanda Burlock

Release date: May 29, 2017 

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Introduction

Previous research has shown that people with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to experience social exclusion and discrimination, which results in unequal access to social, cultural, political, and economic resources.Note 1 For women with disabilities, gender inequities in Canada may contribute added social and economic barriers.Note 2

In this chapter of Women in Canada, the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) is used to create a socioeconomic profile of women with disabilities. Disability, in the 2012 CSD, was determined by assessing the frequency with which one’s daily activities were limited and the degree of difficulty experienced (see Textbox 1 for more information).

Using a gender-based perspective, the chapter describes the prevalence of disability across age groups, regions, subpopulations, and living arrangements. Furthermore, it examines the specific causes of main condition and types of disabilities experienced; the use of aids, assistive devices, and medications; help needed; and use of public and specialized transit. Lastly, education, employment, and income characteristics of people with disabilities are compared with people without disabilities.Note 3

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Textbox 1: Defining Disability

Although the measurement and definition of disability has evolved over time, data on disability have been collected regularly in Canada for more than thirty years.

In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. With this, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) launched a new disability data strategy to monitor progress in creating a more inclusive and accessible society for people with disabilities.

Under this new initiative, ESDC – in partnership with Statistics Canada – developed a new set of questions to identify people with disabilities. These questions use a social model of disability where disability is the result of the interaction between a person’s functional limitations and barriers in the environment, including social and physical barriers that make it harder to function day-to-day. Thus, disability is a social disadvantage that an unsupportive environment imposes on top of an individual’s impairment.Note 4 The result of these efforts is a set of Disability Screening Questions (DSQ) which were used on the 2012 CSD.

The CSD sample included only those who had answered yes to at least one of the activity limitation questions on the 2011 National Household Survey.Note 5 Once the pre-filtered CSD sample was selected, the DSQ measured the type and severity of disabilities that had lasted or were expected to last six months or more. These questions screened for 10 types of disability (seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, developmental, mental/psychological, and memory), the level of difficulty experienced (no difficulty, some difficulty, a lot of difficulty, cannot do), and the frequency of the limitation (never, rarely, sometimes, often, always).

Using results from the DSQ, the CSD considers a limitation to be a disability when the reported frequency of the limitation is ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘always’. If the level of difficulty experienced was ‘a lot’ or ‘cannot do’ and the frequency was ‘rarely’, this is also considered to be a disability.

A global severity score was created for the CSD taking into account the number of disability types one has reported, the associated level of difficulty, and the frequency of activity limitation. Once these three criteria are considered, people with disabilities are assigned a level of severity: mild disability, moderate disability, severe disability, or very severe disability. Severity of disability is often used as a predictor of participation in everyday life; those with more severe disabilities are less likely, for example, to attend post-secondary programs, participate in the labour force, and participate in community events than those with milder disabilities.Note 6

Historical comparisons cannot be made using previous disability data sources as concepts and methods used to measure disability in the 2012 CSD are not equivalent.Note 7

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Prevalence of disability

Disability is more prevalent among women than men

Nearly 2.1 million women (14.9%) and 1.7 million men (12.5%) aged 15 or older reported having one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities in 2012 (Chart 1).

Among younger people (aged 15 to 29), the proportion of women and men who reported disabilities was similar. From age 30 onwards, the proportion of women who reported disabilities was roughly two percentage points higher than that observed among men in most age groups. This gap, however, was substantially larger among those aged 90 or older, where 67.3% of women reported disabilities, compared with 48.8% of men; a difference of 18.5 percentage points. The fact that a larger proportion of women aged 90 or older had reported disabilities compared with same-aged men, may be due, in part, to the fact that women tend to live longer.

As people get older, changes associated with the natural aging process, such as stiffening joints, weakened muscles, and chronic illnesses, become more common.Note 8 As such, the likelihood of disability increased with age. For example, while about one-third (33.8%) of women and men (30.1%) aged 70 to 79 had disabilities that limited them in their daily activities, this was the case for nearly half of women (48.8%) and men (46.7%) in their 80s.

Overall, about half (49.9%) of women aged 15 or older with disabilities had disabilities considered severe or very severe, as opposed to disabilities that were mild or moderate. Women aged 15 to 24 with disabilities were less likely than those in older age groups to have disabilities that were severe or very severe (39.2%). In other age groups, the proportion of women with disabilities that were severe or very severe was relatively stable. For example, 51.3% of women aged 25 to 54 had disabilities that were severe or very severe, as did 50.1% of women aged 55 to 64 and 49.9% of women aged 65 or older (data not shown). Among men with disabilities, however, the prevalence of severe or very severe disabilities did not differ by age group.

In general, women and men with disabilities were equally likely to have severe or very severe disabilities. However, among those aged 65 or older, women were more likely to have severe or very severe disabilities (49.9% versus 44.5%, respectively). Again, this could be due to the fact that women, on average, tend to live longer than men.

Notably, the age at which women and men first started experiencing difficulty or activity limitations differed. For women, onset of disability occurred, on average, at 44.5 years, compared with 41.5 years among men.

Lowest prevalence of disability is found in Quebec

In every region of the country, the prevalence of disability was higher among women than among men. That said, the prevalence of disability varied across the country. It was lowest in QuebecNote 9, where 9.8% of women and 8.9% of men aged 15 or older reported disabilities, followed by the territories where disabilities were reported by 14.4% of women and 12.6% of men. The prevalence of disability was highest among women in Manitoba, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada (16.6%, 16.4%, and 16.3%, respectively). This was also true among men (15.8% in Atlantic Canada, 14.7% in Manitoba, and 14.5% in Ontario) (Chart 2).

Prevalence of disability among Aboriginal women is higher than Aboriginal men and non-Aboriginal women and men

In 2012, 93,370 (22.0%) Aboriginal women and 53,530 (14.6%) Aboriginal men aged 15 or older reported disabilities that limited their daily activities (Table 1).Note 10Note 11 The Aboriginal population is younger than the non-Aboriginal population.Note 12 Despite this, Aboriginal women aged 15 or older were more than 1.5 times as likely as non-Aboriginal women to report disabilities. Similarly, Aboriginal men were about 1.2 times as likely as non-Aboriginal men to report disabilities.

Aboriginal women were more likely than non-Aboriginal women to have disabilities in all age groups, except among those aged 15 to 24. Aboriginal women aged 25 to 54 were more than twice as likely as non-Aboriginal women to report having disabilities (21.3% versus 9.1%, respectively). This gap narrowed with age. Among those aged 55 to 64, Aboriginal women were 1.6 times as likely as non-Aboriginal women to have disabilities (33.9% versus 20.8%, respectively) and among those aged 65 or older, Aboriginal women were 1.5 times as likely as non-Aboriginal women to have disabilities (53.4% versus 35.0%, respectively).

Unlike what was observed among women, Aboriginal men aged 15 to 24 were more likely than same-aged non-Aboriginal men to report disabilities. Specifically, Aboriginal men aged 15 to 24 were 1.6 times as likely as same-aged non-Aboriginal men to report disabilities (7.0% versus 4.4%, respectively). Further, among those aged 25 to 54, Aboriginal men were 1.5 times as likely as non-Aboriginal men to report disabilities (12.1% versus 8.1%, respectively). The prevalence of disability among Aboriginal men aged 55 or older, however, was similar to that of same-aged non-Aboriginal men.

The gender gap in prevalence of disability was larger within the Aboriginal population compared with the non-Aboriginal population. For example, Aboriginal women aged 15 or older were 1.5 times as likely as same-aged Aboriginal men to report disabilities (22.0% versus 14.6%). In comparison, non-Aboriginal women were 1.2 times as likely as non-Aboriginal men to have reported disabilities (14.7% versus 12.5%, respectively).

Aboriginal women with disabilities aged 15 or older were more likely than non-Aboriginal women to have severe or very severe disabilities (63.0% versus 49.3%, respectively). Among those with severe or very severe disabilities, no significant difference was observed among Aboriginal men (54.5%) and non-Aboriginal men (46.6%) (data not shown).

Prevalence of disability is lower among immigrant women than non-immigrant women aged 55 or younger, but higher among those aged 65 or older

Disability is the interaction of an individual’s health condition, or functional limitations, and unsupportive personal or environmental factors. Thus, by definition, health and disability are closely related. Research has shown that people typically migrate when they are young, and upon landing in Canada, are often healthier than the average Canadian-born person. However, this health advantage, known as the “healthy immigrant effect,” diminishes with time spent in Canada.Note 13Note 14Note 15Note 16 In fact, previous research has shown that immigrant women who had been in Canada longer than 10 years had poorer self-reported health than their non-immigrant counterparts.Note 17

Indeed, according to the 2012 CSD, the prevalence of disability among immigrant women aged 15 or older who immigrated to Canada prior to 2002 was higher than that of women who had immigrated more recently, between the years 2002 and 2011 (19.2% versus 6.0%, respectively) (data not shown). This was not the case among immigrant women aged 65 or older whose prevalence of disability, regardless of year of immigration, was similar. These findings were also observed among same-aged immigrant men. The prevalence of disability among immigrant men aged 15 or older who immigrated to Canada prior to 2002 was higher than that of same-aged immigrant men who had immigrated between the years 2002 and 2011 (13.4% versus 6.3%, respectively). Similar to immigrant women, no significant difference in prevalence of disability was observed among immigrant men aged 65 or older, regardless of year of immigration.

Overall, without accounting for year of immigration, the prevalence of disability among immigrant women and non-immigrant women aged 15 or older was similar (15.9% and 14.6%, respectively). However, younger immigrant women were less likely than same-aged non-immigrant women to report disabilities, while older immigrant women were more likely than non-immigrant women to report disabilities that limited their daily activities.

Among women aged 15 to 24, a significantly smaller proportion of immigrant women reported having disabilities compared with non-immigrant women (2.6% versus 4.7%) (Table 2). This was also the case among women aged 25 to 54 with 6.9% of immigrant women having reported disabilities compared with 10.5% of non-immigrant women. In contrast, among those aged 65 or older, immigrant women were more likely than non-immigrant women to have reported disabilities (40.8% versus 32.9%, respectively).

Overall, immigrant women aged 15 or older were more likely than immigrant men to report disabilities (15.9% versus 11.5%, respectively). However, this difference was driven by those aged 55 or older. Among those aged 55 to 64, 21.8% of immigrant women reported disabilities compared with 14.4% of same-aged immigrant men. Among those aged 65 or older, 40.8% of immigrant women reported disabilities compared with 30.2% of immigrant men.

Non-immigrant women aged 15 or older were also more likely than non-immigrant men to have disabilities overall (14.6% versus 13.0%, respectively). However, when the data were examined within smaller age groups this difference was only statistically significant among women and men aged 25 to 54 (10.5% versus 9.1%, respectively).

Visible minority women are less likely than women who do not belong to a visible minority group to have disabilities

Overall, the prevalence of disability among visible minorityNote 18 women aged 15 or older was significantly lower than that observed among women who did not belong to a visible minority group (11.3% versus 15.7%, respectively) (Table 3). A similar pattern was observed among men.

When data were examined within smaller age groups, visible minority women aged 15 to 24 were less likely than same-aged women who did not belong to a visible minority group to report disabilities (3.2% versus 4.6%, respectively). Visible minority women aged 25 to 54 were also less likely than same-aged women who did not belong to a visible minority group to report disabilities (6.8% versus 10.3%, respectively). Notably, among those aged 65 or older, visible minority women were more likely to report disabilities than women who did not belong to a visible minority group (41.9% versus 34.4%, respectively).

This age-related pattern of disability prevalence among visible minority women compared with women who were not a visible minority is similar to what was observed among immigrant women compared with non-immigrant women. This could be related to the fact that a relatively large proportion of visible minority women are immigrants (82.4%) compared with women who do not belong to a visible minority group (11.6%). However, when only data for non-immigrants were examined, visible minority women in younger age groups continued to be less likely to report disabilities than women who were not a visible minority. For example, among those aged 25 to 54, 6.8%E of visible minority women reported disabilities compared with 10.7% of women who did not belong to a visible minority group (data not shown). On the other hand, among those aged 65 or older, there was no difference in the proportion of women who reported disabilities based on visible minority status once immigrant status was taken into account.

Women with disabilities are more likely to live alone or to be lone parents than women without disabilities

Living arrangements among women with or without disabilities differed significantly in 2011. For instance, women with disabilities aged 15 or older were twice as likely to be living alone compared with women without disabilities (24.6% versus 12.3%, respectively) and more likely to be a lone parent (11.0% versus 7.8%, respectively). Further, women with disabilities were less likely than those without disabilities to be part of a couple (50.0% versus 58.4%, respectively). Men with disabilities were also more likely than men without disabilities to be living alone (18.3% versus 11.7%, respectively) or to be a lone parent (3.5% versus 2.1%, respectively). Men with disabilities were more likely to be part of a couple compared with men without disabilities (62.9% versus 60.3%, respectively) (Table 4).

When the data were examined within smaller age groups, women with disabilities aged 25 to 54 were significantly more likely to be living alone compared with same-aged women without disabilities (14.5% versus 8.9%, respectively). This was also the case for women with disabilities aged 55 to 64 compared with same-aged women without disabilities (21.8% versus 16.4%, respectively). The proportions of those living alone were similar among women with or without disabilities aged 65 or older (36.8% and 34.0%, respectively). A similar pattern was observed among men.

Women, regardless of disability status, were more likely to be lone parents compared with men in all age groups. Women with disabilities aged 25 to 54 were significantly more likely to be a lone parent compared with same-aged women without disabilities (18.0% versus 10.9%, respectively). This was also the case among women aged 65 or older with 8.4% of women with disabilities being a lone parent compared with 5.5% of women without disabilities.

Women with disabilities were significantly less likely to be living as a couple, with or without children, compared with women without disabilities except among those aged 15 to 24 where proportions were similar. Among women aged 25 to 54, 56.5% of women with disabilities were living as part of a couple compared with 69.9% of women without disabilities. Among women aged 55 to 64, 62.1% of women with disabilities were living as a couple compared with 73.7% of women without disabilities. Women with disabilities aged 65 or older were also less likely to be living as part of a couple compared with women without disabilities (41.9% versus 54.4%, respectively). Men with disabilities aged 25 to 64 were also less likely to live as part of a couple compared with men without disabilities. Among men with or without disabilities aged 65 or older, the proportions of those living as part of a couple were similar.

Causes of main condition and disability types

Women with disabilities are significantly less likely than men to attribute their main condition to a work-related cause

The 2012 CSD asked respondents to indicate the cause of their main condition.Note 19 For men aged 15 or older, work-related causes (an accident, injury, exposure to toxins, high levels of stress, etc.) were the most frequently reported (27.7%) cause of their main condition. This cause was reported less than half as frequently among same-aged women with disabilities (11.8%). Men were more likely than women to report work-related causes of disability in every age group examined, except among those aged 15 to 24 where proportions were similar (Table 5).

While men were more likely than women to report work-related causes of disability, women were more likely to report that the cause of their main condition was ageing. One-quarter of women with disabilities aged 15 or older (24.4%) reported the cause of their main condition to be ageing, this proportion differed significantly from same-aged men (19.3%). Women with disabilities aged 45 to 64 were more likely than same-aged men with disabilities to report ageing as the cause of their main condition (16.5% versus 13.6%, respectively). This was also the case among women with disabilities aged 65 to 74 compared with same-aged men with disabilities (35.0% versus 26.8%, respectively). Among those aged 75 or older, however, similar proportions reported ageing as the cause of their main condition; that is 49.4% of women and 45.7% of men.

Pain-related disabilities are the most commonly reported disability type

There are many types of disabilities that affect one’s participation in everyday activities, many of which co-occur with others. The CSD screened respondents for the following disability types: seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, developmental, mental/psychological, and memory.

Pain, flexibility and mobility were the most commonly reported disability types among women aged 15 or older (11.2%, 8.5% and 8.2%, respectively) with women reporting them more often than men. These were also the disabilities most commonly reported by men aged 15 or older, among whom 8.2% reported pain, 6.6% reported flexibility, and 6.2% reported mobility disabilities.

After pain, flexibility and mobility, the most common disabilities reported by women aged 15 or older were related to mental-health (4.3%), dexterity (4.0%), seeing (3.1%) and hearing disabilities (3.0%). Among men aged 15 or older, after pain, flexibility and mobility disabilities, the most common disabilities reported were related to mental-health (3.4%), hearing (3.4%) and dexterity (3.0%) (Table 6).

Among those with pain, flexibility and mobility disabilities, gender differences observed among those aged 15 to 64 were also observed among those aged 65 or older. Hearing disabilities were less commonly reported by women than men, particularly among those aged 65 or older (9.1% versus 12.1%, respectively).

Co-occurrence of disability is found, in varying degrees, across all disability types with the highest frequency of co-occurrence among pain-related disabilities and dexterity (which co-occurs with pain 86.1% of the time), flexibility (which co-occurs with pain 83.7% of the time), and mobility (which co-occurs with pain 82.9% of the time).Note 20

Use of aids, assistive devices and prescribed medications

Use of aids, assistive devices or prescribed medications increase with severity of disability

The need for specialized aids, assistive devices, and prescribed medications differ depending on type of disability and level of severity. The 2012 CSD collected data on many types of aids and assistive devices, such as hearing aids, large print readings materials, canes and walkers, and specialized software. Access to these aids and assistive devices, and many others, may enable people with disabilities to perform everyday activities thus increasing their social participation.Note 21

More than eight in ten women and men with disabilities reported using at least one aid or assistive device. Among women with mild or moderate disabilities aged 15 or older, 72.5% reported using an aid or assistive device. This figure was significantly higher at 93.1% for same-aged women with severe or very severe disabilities (data not shown).

Women with disabilities were more likely to report using prescription medications at least once a week compared with men with disabilities (77.1% versus 73.7%, respectively). The use of prescribed medications at least once a week was significantly more frequent among women with severe or very severe disabilities, of whom 86.0% used them (Table 7).

Use of aids or assistive devices is highest among those with mobility or agility limitations

Mobility or agility-related aids or assistive devices can include a broad range of useful equipment, including, but not limited to, the use of a cane, walking stick, walker, or wheelchair; orthopaedic footwear, an orthotic or brace, a prosthetic device or artificial limb; adapted tools, utensils or special grips, a device for dressing; bathroom aids, a walk-in bath or shower, or widened doorways or hallways.

In 2012, 80.5% of women with disabilities aged 15 or older reported using mobility or agility-related aids or assistive devices, making these aids the most frequently used. Among women with mild or moderate disabilities, 70.3% reported using these aids and assistive devices compared with 87.4% of women with severe or very severe disabilities. Among those with severe or very severe disabilities, a larger proportion of women reported using these aids and assistive devices compared with men (87.4% versus 83.4%, respectively).

Help needed and help received

Women are more likely than men to report needing help getting to appointments, with housework, and with heavy household chores

When people with disabilities receive the help they need, this allows them to participate more fully in everyday activities, both socially and economically. Barriers to participation exist when a person with disabilities requires help, but does not receive it.Note 22

Women with disabilities aged 15 or older were generally more likely than men with disabilities to report needing help with certain everyday activities. Specifically, women were more likely than men to have reported needing help with heavy household chores (64.9% versus 51.9%, respectively), with housework (52.2% versus 35.7%), with getting to and from appointments (48.1% versus 32.8%), with preparing meals (30.8% versus 24.6%), or with moving around (10.5% versus 8.1%) (Table 8).

The need for help increased with severity for each type of everyday activity among women and men. Among women with severe or very severe disabilities aged 15 or older, 76.0% required help with heavy household chores, compared with 53.9% among women with mild or moderate disabilities. Further, 71.1% of women with severe or very severe disabilities needed help with housework, compared with 33.4% of women with mild or moderate disabilities. Among women with severe or very severe disabilities, 65.7% needed help getting to appointments compared with 30.6% of women with mild or moderate disabilities. Nearly half of all women with severe or very severe disabilities (48.5%) needed help preparing meals compared with 13.3% of women with mild or moderate disabilities.

Among men with severe or very severe disabilities, a smaller proportion reported needing help with heavy household chores (71.2%), housework (54.4%), getting to appointments (51.3%), and preparing meals (39.9%) compared with women with severe or very severe disabilities. For other types of everyday activities, however, similar proportions of help needed among women and men with severe or very severe disabilities were observed.

Family are the most common source of help for women and men with disabilities

Among those receiving help, family members in the household were the most common source of help for both women (63.6%) and men (67.9%) with disabilities. Similar proportions were found among women and men, regardless of the severity of their disability.

The second most common source of help came from family living outside the home with women and men reporting similar proportions. Women with mild or moderate disabilities (35.7%) and severe and very severe disabilities (45.3%) similarly reported this source of help (Chart 3). This was also the case for men with mild or moderate and severe or very severe disabilities (35.8% and 42.0%, respectively).

Notably, a smaller proportion of women received help from a friend or neighbour compared with men, regardless of the severity of their disability. Among women with mild or moderate disabilities, 19.6% reported receiving help from a friend or neighbour compared with 24.8% of men with mild or moderate disabilities. This proportion increased significantly among both women and men with severe or very severe disabilities (26.3% and 32.9%, respectively).

Use of public and specialized transit

Women with severe or very severe disabilities are more likely than men with severe or very severe disabilities to use public transit

In 2012, about one-fifth of both women (21.2%) and men (17.9%) with disabilities aged 15 or older regularly used public transit, such as a bus or subway. Among those with severe or very severe disabilities, however, women were more likely than men to report using this type of transit (20.5% versus 16.2%, respectively) (data not shown).

Less than one in ten women (8.7%) and men (6.3%) regularly used specialized transit, such as a special bus or van or a subsidized accessible taxi service. Both women and men with severe or very severe disabilities were about twice as likely as those with mild or moderate disabilities to have reported regular use. Specifically, 11.2% of women with severe or very severe disabilities reported using specialized transit, compared with 6.1% of women with mild or moderate disabilities. This was the case for 8.6% of men with severe or very severe disabilities, compared with 4.2%E of men with mild or moderate disabilities (data not shown).

Nearly half of women with severe or very severe disabilities report some or a lot of difficulty when using public or specialized transit

Nearly half (46.1%) of women with severe or very severe disabilities who used public or specialized transit reported having some or a lot of difficulty using these services. This was the case for a smaller proportion (13.9%) of women with mild or moderate disabilities (data not shown).

For women and men with disabilities, the most common difficulty reported was getting on or off the vehicle, with a larger proportion of women reporting this difficulty (51.0% versus 41.8%, respectively). A similar proportion of women and men reported that they felt their condition or health problem was aggravated when they went out (47.6% and 49.0%), that transit was overcrowded (29.2% and 30.4%) and that they had difficulty getting to or locating bus stops (28.1% and 31.6% ) (Table 9).

Among women with disabilities, three types of difficulty reported increased significantly with severity of disability. For instance, the proportion of women with severe or very severe disabilities, who reported that their condition or health problem was aggravated when they went out (51.2%) was higher than that observed among women with mild or moderate disabilities (35.6%). Among those who reported difficulty booking, as it was not allowed last minute, women with severe or very severe disabilities were more than twice as likely to report this difficulty compared with women with mild or moderate disabilities (9.2% versus 4.1%E, respectively). Women with severe or very severe disabilities were nearly four times as likely to report that transit was too expensive compared with women with mild or moderate disabilities (16.1% versus 4.8%E).

Among men with disabilities, difficulties faced when using public or specialized transit increased with level of severity more broadly. Indeed, men with severe or very severe disabilities were more likely than men with mild or moderate disabilities to report that their condition or health problem was aggravated when out (53.1% versus 38.2%, respectively), that they had difficulty getting on or off the vehicle (49.1% versus 23.0%E) and getting to or locating bus stops (35.0% versus 22.7%E). In addition, men with severe or very severe disabilities were more likely than men with mild or moderate disabilities to have difficulty transferring or completing complicated transfers (27.1% versus 14.2%E), seeing signs, notices or stops or have difficulty hearing announcements (20.0% versus 11.0%E) and requesting service (14.5% versus 6.9%E).

Education

People with disabilities are less likely to have a certificate, diploma or degree

In 2011, 18.3% of women aged 25 to 54 with disabilities that limited their daily activities reported that they had no certificate, diploma or degree. A similar proportion was observed among same-aged men with disabilities (19.7%). Both women and men with disabilities were significantly less likely to have a certificate, diploma or degree compared with women and men without disabilities. Specifically, 8.3% of women and 11.7% of men without disabilities aged 25 to 54 had not obtained a certificate, diploma or degree (Table 10).

Among women with disabilities aged 25 to 54, the likelihood of having obtained a certificate, diploma or degree decreased with severity. For example, 14.6% of women with mild or moderate disabilities reported not having a certificate, diploma or degree; this proportion was higher at 21.9% for women with severe or very severe disabilities (Chart 4).

Women with disabilities were half as likely to have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with women without disabilities (15.7% versus 30.7%, respectively) (Table 10). Further, women with mild or moderate disabilities were twice as likely to have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with women with severe or very severe disabilities (21.0% versus 10.6%, respectively) (Chart 4).

Women are less likely to report negative educational experiences compared with men

The CSD asked women and men with disabilities who had attended school in the past five years about their educational experiences. The results provide some insight into the difficulties women and men with disabilities faced while in school.

In 2012, 40.4% of women and 39.8% of men with disabilities aged 25 to 34 reported having attended school in the past five years (data not shown).

Among women with disabilities aged 25 to 34 who had attended school in the past five years, half reported that they took fewer courses or subjects (50.6%), that it took them longer to achieve their present level of education (50.2%), and that their choice of courses or career was influenced (49.6%) because of their condition (Table 11).

The most frequently reported educational experience was different for men than it was for women. In 2012, 62.5% of men with disabilities aged 25 to 34 who attended school in the past five years had reported that their choice of courses or career was influenced because of their condition. Additionally, 57.8% of men reported that it took them longer to achieve their present level of education and 54.9% of men reported that they took fewer courses or subjects because of their condition.

Women with disabilities aged 25 to 34 were less likely than same-aged men with disabilities to report attending a special education school or special education classes in a regular school (11.8%E versus 39.1%E, respectively) and to report having additional expenses for schooling (14.9%E versus 38.8%E, respectively).

Labour force participation and experiences

People with disabilities are less likely to be in the labour force

Previous research has shown that women and men with disabilities face challenges participating in the labour force.Note 23Note 24 As the severity of disability increases, often these difficulties increase making certain kinds of work unsuitable. Some may need to limit the number of hours worked or may require other workplace accommodations.

People with disabilities were less likely to participate in the labour force compared with people without disabilities.Note 25 A similar proportion of women and men with disabilities aged 25 to 54 participated in the labour force in 2011 (61.3% and 63.4%, respectively). This was not the case among same-aged women and men without disabilities as women were less likely to have participated in the labour force (83.4% versus 92.8%, respectively). 

The labour force participation rates among women and men with disabilities aged 25 to 54 decreased significantly with disability severity (Chart 5). Indeed, 46.3% of women and 46.9% of men with severe or very severe disabilities were labour force participants in 2011, compared with 76.6% of women and 77.7% of men with mild or moderate disabilities.

Among women and men aged 25 to 54, the unemployment rateNote 26 of women and men with disabilities (13.4%E and 9.5%, respectively) was higher than that of women and men without disabilities (both 5.6%) in 2011 (Table 12).”

More than two in five employed women with disabilities work part-time

Among those employed during the 2011 National Household Survey reference week,Note 27 a similar proportion of women aged 25 to 54 with or without disabilities reported working part-time, that is less than 30 hours, (42.1% and 37.0%, respectively). Same-aged men with disabilities, however, were less likely than women with disabilities to have reported working less than 30 hours (29.1%) (Table 12).

A similar proportion of employed women and men aged 25 to 54 worked between 30 to 40 hours, regardless of disability status. Approximately half of those employed during the reference week reported working between 30 and 40 hours.

A smaller proportion of employed women with disabilities aged 25 to 54 worked between 41 and 50 hours during the reference week compared with same-aged men with disabilities (5.8% versus 14.4%, respectively). This was also observed among women and men without disabilities in this age group (8.5%E versus 23.8%E, respectively).

Nearly half of women and men with disabilities feel disadvantaged in employment due to their condition

The most frequently reported types of perceived labour force discrimination by women with disabilities aged 25 to 54 were feeling disadvantaged in employment due to their condition (44.5%) or feeling that their employer or potential employer considers them disadvantaged due to their condition (46.1%). These proportions were not significantly different from that of same-aged men with disabilities (Chart 6).

More than one in ten women and men with disabilities aged 25 to 54 reported that they were refused a job in the past five years due to their condition (12.6% of women and 15.8% of men).

In 2012, over one-quarter of employed women and men with disabilities that limited their daily activities reported that their employer was unaware of their condition.Note 28

Women with disabilities are more likely to need workplace accommodations

According the 2012 CSD, women with disabilities aged 15 or older who were employed or had been employed within the past five years were more likely than men to report needing workplace accommodations (data not shown).

Women with disabilities aged 15 or older were less likely to have certain workplace accommodations made available to them compared with men with disabilities. For example, among women with disabilities who needed handrails, ramps, widened doorways or hallways as a work accommodation, 41.7%E had reported having this accommodation compared with 68.3% of same-aged men with disabilities.

In terms of transit-related workplace accommodations, a smaller proportion of women with disabilities had access to adapted or accessible parking and to specialized transportation compared with men with disabilities. Indeed, 33.6%E of women with disabilities had access to adapted or accessible parking compared with 64.3% of men with disabilities, while 27.9%E of women with disabilities had access to specialized transit compared with 54.5%E of men with disabilities (Table 13).

Income

Wages or salaries are the most frequently reported source of personal income among people with disabilities aged 25 to 54

According to the 2012 CSD, among those with disabilities aged 25 to 54, the most frequently reported source of income reported by women (49.5%) and men (54.4%) was wages or salaries in 2011 (Table 14). The second most frequently reported source of income among women (16.3%) and men (17.3%) in this age group was from provincial, territorial or municipal social assistance.

A similar proportion of women and men with disabilities aged 25 to 54 reported the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit as a source of income (14.4% and 14.9%, respectively). Further, more than one in ten women and men with disabilities aged 25 to 54 reported income from a private Long Term Disability Plan (11.0% and 13.3%, respectively).

Notably, women with disabilities aged 25 to 54 were less than half as likely to report workers’ compensation income compared with same-aged men with disabilities (4.9% versus 12.6%, respectively).

Among women and men with disabilities aged 65 or older, the most frequently reported source of income was the Canadian Pension Plan (excluding disability) benefits with a smaller proportion of women reporting this income compared with men (80.4% versus 89.0%, respectively).

Women with disabilities have lower average personal income compared with women without disabilities and men with or without disabilities

Among women aged 15 or older who worked mainly full-time in 2010, those with disabilities reported $37,070 of after-tax personal incomeNote 29, on average, which was $2,250 less than same-aged women without disabilities. Men with disabilities aged 15 or older who worked mainly full-time in 2010 reported $45,080 of personal income, on average. The highest personal income was reported by men aged 15 or older without disabilities, with an average personal income of $49,050 (Chart 7).

Among women with and women without disabilities aged 15 or older, the largest gap in personal income was in Atlantic Canada where women with disabilities reported $3,640 less personal income than women without disabilities, on average ($30,290 versus $33,930, respectively). This gap was followed closely by Ontario, where women with disabilities ($37,560) reported $3,630 less personal income on average than women without disabilities ($41,190).

British Columbia had the most pronounced gender gap in average personal income among women and men with disabilities who worked mainly full-time in 2010. On average, women with disabilities aged 15 or older in this region reported $38,270 of personal income while same-aged men with disabilities reported $48,590 – a difference of $10,320. After British Columbia, the largest personal income gaps between women and men with disabilities existed in Quebec and Ontario with men reporting more in each region (a difference of $8,880 and $8,280, respectively).

Women report the highest household income on average in the territories and in Alberta

In Canada, women with disabilities aged 15 or older reported an average household income of $58,870 compared with the $79,130 average household income of same-aged women without disabilities; a difference of $20,260 (Table 15). When data were examined in smaller age groups, women with disabilities reported lower household income on average compared with women without disabilities in every age group except among those aged 75 or older. The average household income among women with disabilities aged 75 or older was significantly higher than that of same-aged women without disabilities ($54,620 versus $48,530, respectively).

Men with disabilities aged 15 or older reported $19,780 less average household income than same-aged men without disabilities ($61,530 versus $81,310, respectively). The average household income among women and men with disabilities, however, did not differ significantly at any age.

Women with disabilities aged 15 or older reported significantly less after-tax household incomeNote 30 compared with women without disabilities in every region. This was also the case for men with or without disabilities.

The average household income of women, regardless of disability status, was highest in the territories and in Alberta. In the territories, women with disabilities reported $73,470 of household income on average while women without disabilities reported $100,720; a difference of $27,250 (Chart 8). In Alberta, women with disabilities reported an average $71,940 household income compared with $97,900 reported by women without disabilities; a difference of $25,960.

Among women with or without disabilities, British Columbia had the smallest gap in average household income with women without disabilities reporting $17,240 more ($61,330 versus $78,570, respectively).

The reported household income of women and men with disabilities was similar in all regions, except Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Manitoba. The largest gender gap in household income occurred in Manitoba where women with disabilities reported an average $6,270 less household income than men with disabilities ($51,890 versus $58,160, respectively).

Women with disabilities who live alone report the lowest household income on average

An important element when looking at household income is the living arrangement of the person reporting. Of particular importance, the household income of a person living alone or the household income of a lone parent is often much lower than for couple families.

Individuals living alone reported the lowest household income on average. Women with disabilities aged 15 or older who lived alone reported significantly less household income on average compared with women without disabilities ($25,690 versus $34,000, respectively) (Table 16). The household income reported by women and men with disabilities aged 15 or older who were living alone was similar ($25,690 and $27,170, respectively).

The highest average household income was observed among those living with their spouse or partner and children. The average household income of women with disabilities aged 15 or older in this living situation was $82,950 which was less that the $96,530 reported by same-aged women without disabilities. The household income reported by women and men with disabilities aged 15 or older who were living with their spouse or partner and children were similar ($82,950 and $83,420, respectively).

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