YRDSB Students and Employees with Disabilities
Disability is a broad term that covers a wide range of conditions. A disability may have been present at birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time. Based on the comprehensive definition of "disability" as defined in Ontario’s Human Rights Code, there are just over 19,000 students with disabilities (exceptionalities or special education needs) who received services and supports through their Individual Education Plan (IEP) during the 2019-2020 school year.
Approximately 15% of YRDSB students were identified as having a disability (or exceptionality) based on the number of students with IEPs.
It is worth noting that findings from the Every Student Counts Survey (Overall Board Report) reinforce the negative attitudes, stereotyping and stigma surrounding disability. Only 6% of intermediate students (grades 7 and 8) and 7% of secondary students (grades 9 to 12) self-reported having a disability; and only 3% of parents/guardians answered “yes” to the question: “Do you consider your child to be a person with a disability?”
YRDSB employees were similarly asked to identify whether they have a disability in the Employment Equity Audit and Workforce Census that was conducted in 2018. Although the Board’s Disability Management Team serviced a total of 2,372 employees during the 2019-2020 school year, only 870 employees self-identified as having a disability in the Workforce Census (out of the 9,327 total responses).
Approximately 9% of YRDSB employees (permanent and casual) self-identified as having a disability based on 2018 Workforce Census.
The percentage of employees with disabilities was categorized based on 3 broad types of disability:
- 3.8% identified as having a physical disability or health condition (e.g., visual impairment, hearing impairment, require the use of a wheelchair or service animal);
- 3.9% identified as having a mental health disability (e.g., depression, bipolar, anxiety); and
- 2.2% identified as having a learning disability (e.g., dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Comparing YRDSB to Broader Disability Statistics
The percentage of YRDSB employees (9%) with disabilities is lower than the percentages of York Region residents (18%), Ontario residents (24%) and Canadians (22%) aged 15 years or older with disabilities. The higher proportion of people with disabilities beyond YRDSB can be partly attributed to age demographics and the increased prevalence of disability among older adults. Individuals 65 years of age or older account for over 40% of all Canadians with disabilities according the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability. However, only 1% of YRDSB employees were aged 65 years or older based on the 2018 Workforce Census.
It is imperative that we consider disability data and statistics beyond only students, employees and other people with disabilities.
Shifting how we think about Disability
Traditional disability statistics focus on the numbers or percentages of people with disabilities, for example that 6.2 million or 22% of Canadians have a disability. However, for the 78% of Canadians who do not have an identified disability, they can still be affected by disability in different ways.
The wider impact of disability was examined in a 2019 study by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. The study found that 86% of Canadians are impacted by disability in some way – either directly affected (24%), affiliated through a family member or close friend with a disability (30%), or concerned (32%) about how disability will affect them in the next 5 to 10 years.
The 2019 data showing Canadians’ relationship to disability better supports the social model of disability which recognizes disability as an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. In other words, disability is a social construct. In recognizing the social model of disability, the Board's commitment to accessibility is about building environments and creating a culture that benefits everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
The 2019 data also highlights the importance of accessibility by showing how disability does not only impact people with disabilities, but affects almost everyone. Only 14% of Canadians believed that they have no relationship or concerns when it comes to disabilities. While recognizing that 22% of Canadians have a disability, it can be more impactful to also state that disability affects 86% of Canadians either directly or indirectly.