Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Analytical report

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The Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) is a national survey designed to collect information on adults and children who have a disability, that is, whose everyday activities are limited because of a condition or health problem. Funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada and conducted by Statistics Canada, PALS provides essential information on the prevalence of various disabilities, the supports for persons with disabilities, their employment profile, their income and their participation in society. This information will be used by all levels of government, by associations, by researchers and by nongovernmental organizations to support the planning of services needed by persons with activity limitations to participate fully in society.

Data on persons with disabilities were last collected in 2001, when the previous PALS survey was conducted. The 2006 PALS will provide a measure of the change in the numbers and situations of persons with disabilities in the previous five years. As well, some new content has been introduced into the survey to reflect changing technology and emerging policy and program needs.

This article is the first in a series of the PALS data releases. It contains survey results on the prevalence, type and severity of disability by age and sex. Further releases on topics such as care received by persons with disabilities, the impact on a family of having a child with a disability and employment barriers are planned for 2008. The text box Identifying persons with disabilities provides an overview of the survey methodology.

Text Box 1
Identifying persons with disabilities

This release is based on the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). PALS is a post-censal survey that collected information about persons with disabilities whose everyday activities are limited because of a health-related condition or problem. The survey took place between November 2006 and February 2007. PALS is funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC).

Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) is a post-censal survey which used the 2006 Census as a sampling frame to identify its population. The 2006 Census questionnaire included two general questions on activity limitations. The PALS respondents were selected through the use of the census information on age, geography and the responses to these two general questions. The PALS interview began with the census disability filter questions followed by a series of detailed screening questions on activity limitations. If respondents answered NO to all of the filter questions and screening questions, the interview ended. If respondents answered YES to any of the filter questions or screening questions, the interview continued to collect information on the impact of disability on their everyday activities and other aspects of their life, such as education, employment, leisure, transportation and accommodation.

The PALS sample was 48,000, consisting of approximately 39,000 adults and 9,000 children. The interviews were conducted by telephone with the interviewers using a computer assisted collection methodology. Two questionnaires were used, one for adults aged 15 and over and one for children under the age of 15. The interviews for the children's questionnaire were conducted with the parent or guardian of the child. The overall response rate was 75.0%.

The population covered by the survey was persons residing in private and some collective households in the ten provinces and the three territories. Persons living in institutions and on First Nations reserves were excluded from the survey. PALS followed the groundwork laid by the Health and Activity Limitation Survey (HALS) in 1991 and the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey of 2001. The data for HALS and PALS 2001 could not be compared because of significant differences in their sampling plans, the operational definition of their target population and the content of their questionnaires. However, the PALS 2006 results can be compared with the 2001 survey to identify trends in the previous five years. For more information about PALS 2006, see the publication Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Technical and methodological report, published in December 2007.

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