Disability Inclusion: The Best Actionable Guide and Statistics

Complete Guide to Disability: Types of Disability list, and latest disability statistics, benefits, and how to create promote diverse and inclusive workplace, classroom, and society

What is Disability Inclusion?

Disability Inclusion is to include people with disabilities in our every day life and society. It is to provide accessibility to people with disabilities in areas of employment, communication, business, housing, products and services. It is to provide them with the same opportunity that everyone else in the society gets in every aspect of life.

Why is Disability Inclusion important?

Disability Inclusion allows accessibility so that everyone can fully participate in society without barriers to achieve their goals, desires to thrive in life. Rates of disability vary by sex, suggesting that a gender lens is important in the study of disability. For Example, Women are more likely than men to have a disability statistically.

Check out this video “Disability Inclusion Matters for All” by World Bank:

Disability Statistics around the world

  • Around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority. (WHO)
  • This figure is increasing through population growth, medical advances and the ageing process, says the World Health Organization. (WHO)
  • Women with disabilities are recognized to be multiply disadvantaged, experiencing exclusion on account of their gender and their disability.
  • Ninety per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school, says UNESCO. (UNESCO)

Disability In Canada

Disability is one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination in Canada

To learn more, visit Ontario Human Rights Commission

Disability Statistic in the United States

Here are some facts from the United Nations:

  • According to CDC – Centers for Disease Control Prevention, 61 million adults in the United States (about 26% of 1 in 4 people) live with some kind of disability. People who have a disability are close to us – whether you notice it or not.
  • 13.7% of adults have a disability in mobility (ex. walking, climbing stairs),
  • 10.8% in cognition (ex. concentrating, making decisions and remembering),
  • 6.8% in independent living (ex. doing errands alone),
  • 5.9% in hearing (ex. deafness or serious difficulty hearing),
  • 4.6% in vision (ex. blindness or serious difficulty seeing),
  • 3.7% in self care (ex. difficulty in dressing or bathing).
  • One in four America adults has a disability
  • Only 29% of working age Americans (aged 16 to 64) with disabilities are employed vs. 75% of Americans without disabilities
  • Unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is 2 times more than that of those without disabilities
  • About 13% of the population has a disability  = about 41 million people
  • 2 in 5 adults aged 65 and older have a disability
  • 1 in 4 women have a disability
  • 2 in 5 Non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives have a disability
  • more on Disabilities Statistics and United States Census Bureau:
Types of Diversity from US Census

Benefits of Disability Inclusion:

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Corporate brand building (enhanced reputation to attract more talents and customers so that your services/products can be more inclusive)
  • Better Employee retention of valued employees = lower cost to recruit, replace, and retrain
  • Better company morale
  • Better interactions amongst coworkers – better team work & idea/knowledge sharing
  • Unique business opportunities in the untapped consumer market – the 3rd largest market segment in the states
  • Enhance diversity in company’s workforce
    • Diversity in workforce representation ex. U.S. Department of Labour’s target of having 7% disability representation in the workforce, approximately only 13% of the companies in the states have met this target.
    • Have a diverse workforce that represents the society population or customer population creates an environment that is more welcoming & respectful for the employees and end-users.
    • Better interactions with customers = expand your customer base
    • Better profit
  • Persons with disabilities are often very creative, innovative and loyal employees (they have problem solving skills, persistence and agility)
  • Improved productivity turning into profits
  • Increase attendance
  • Save other insurance costs
  • Better health, safety & wellness
  • Better social interactions and relationships
  • Not only help the individual but also overall team work and communication

If there are so many tangible and intangible benefits of Disability Inclusion, what may be some reasons that lead to hesitation in people and companies?

  • Unconscious bias
  • False assumptions
  • Concern over costs of accommodation
    • A high % of accommodations actually can cost nothing or very minimal to ~$500 per employee with disability
  • Some people simply feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the subject.
  • Don’t know how to interact with people with disabilities.
  • Uncomfortable asking
  • Fear of negative outcomes
  • Conditions not severe enough

What types of Disability are there?

There are two major types of disability, Visible disability vs Invisiable disability.

Visible Disability

Visible Disability is something that can be noticed with the naked eye

Visible Disabilities Examples

  • Amputation
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Down Syndrome

Invisible (or Hidden) Disability

Invisible Disability is a disability that is not immediately apparent.

Invisible (or Hidden) Disabilities Examples:

  • Mental Illness
  • Anxiety
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Bipolar
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Pain
  • Chronic Dizziness
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Developmental disability
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Take a look at the hidden challenges of invisible disabilities by BBC:


Australian National University: Different types of disabilities [https://services.anu.edu.au/human-resources/respect-inclusion/different-types-of-disabilities]

Vision Impairment:

Vision Impairment refers to someone who is blind or who has partial vision.

Inclusion Tips:

  • Identify yourself and others present
  • Ask if they need assistance and be prepared that your offer may be refused
  • Let the take your arm instead of taking theirs
  • Describe changes in the environment
  • Do not pat or distract the guide dog

Hearing Impairment:

Hearing Impairment refers to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Inclusion Tips:

  • Look and speak directly to them, not to the person accompanying them
  • Use normal tone of voice unless being instructed otherwise
  • If need clarification, ask the to repeat, rephrase or offer them a pen/paper
  • Allow more time
  • Train receptionist how to greet and assist people with disabilities

Mental Health Conditions:

Inclusion Tips:

  • Provide clear & thorough explanation/instructions
  • Ask them how they’d like to receive the information
  • Allow more time and flexibility

Intellectual Disabilities:

People with Intellectual Disability may experience difficulties with communication, self-care and social skills.

Inclusion Tips:

  • Allow more time
  • Be patient
  • Try to keep the pressure to the minimum because stress can impact a person’s concentration and performance
  • They may be less aware of social cues or have less developed social skills

Physical Disabilities:

Inclusion Tips:

  • Ask before offering your help
  • Be at the same level when you talk to someone
  • Do not touch their cane/wheelchair – ask for permission

The two models of Disability: Medical Model vs Social Model

Medical Model

  • The traditional model
  • Disability is something that needs to be “fixed”/”cured”

Social Model

  • Social barriers are what disable us (ex. Social, financial, physical)

Ex. The building has only stairs.

Medical Model: The problem is the disability that the person can’t walk up the stairs.

Social Model: The problem is the stairs. We should build a ramp.

Let us not have our attention focused on the possible limitations but to identify  barriers/attitudes that could exclude persons with different abilities to participate.

What could be some barriers or challenges for persons with disabilities in the society & workplace?

  • What is Ableism?

Ableism is the oppression and discrimination of people with disability, that being able is  “normal”  preferred.

  • Stereotypes
    • Lazy
    • Crazy
    • Dangerous
    • Tragic
    • Pitiful
    • Childish
    • Incompetent
  • When you treat Person with Disability (PwD) differently
    • Ex. Staring, pointing, saying someone’s hand looks weird
  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Disrespectful/rude reactions
  • Ignorance
  • Negative attitude towards disabilities
  • Stigma
  • Prejudice
  • Discrimination
  • Social boycott
  • Disabilities that are not visible (ex. Depression, Anxiety, Autism)
  • Underestimation of abilities
  • Offering help too soon when it may not be needed or welcomed
  • Accessibility (ex. Access to elevator/ramp, font size, Braille, video with captioning, American Sign Language)
  • Lack of assistance devices/technologies
  • Systematic policy barriers (lack of awareness or enforcement of existing laws that requires programs to be accessible)
  • Denying PwD opportunity to participate
  • Denying reasonable accommodation

Disability Inclusion in our workplace and community

Top tips for a disability Inclusive Workplace

  • Create an environment of trust and respect so that persons with disabilities feel comfortable reaching out
  • Revisit the Hiring & Recruitment policies, procedures and process to remove barriers and increase representation of persons with disabilities in your workforce
  • Recruitment strategies – hire candidates based on education, skills, knowledge, experience, competencies, enthusiasm and potential
  • Recruiters can engage and network with community groups to strengthen hiring piplines
  • Have training programs in place to encourage and promote growth & success in persons with disabilities
  • Corporate training to all staff to increase awareness and educate everyone the benefits and best practices of Disability Inclusion
  • Unconscious bias training
  • Change policies/processes that support unconscious bias
  • Be careful of what you say, words to matter
  • Mentoring/coaching program
  • Buddy program
  • Build Disability Inclusion into your corporate culture
  • Leadership and managers: walk your talk! Take actions.
  • Have an Accommodation Policy and Program in place
  • Enhance close collaboration of Health, Safety & Wellness Team, Manager & Employee to work towards an accommodation plan – so everyone is clear on their role.
  • Provide accessible tools, technologies, work space, communications, services and buildings
  • Employee resource group
  • Events
  • Ex. Person with visual impairment: Enable dictation and typing tool in Microsoft
  • Respect a person’s accommodation request and personal preferences in the workplace, especially relating to communication

Top Behavioral Tips creating a disability inclusive environment

  • Don’t assume! Ask if they would like any help before providing it.
  • Speak directly to the person with disability, not to the interpreter/companion next to them. The interpreter/companion will help if needed.
  • Make appropriate eye contact. Be mindful and adjust your eye and body level. Imagine .. it can be quite unwelcoming/uncomfortable having to look up to a person during the entire conversation. See if you’d need to adjust camera angles, lighting or sound.
  • Address them the same way you would when you talk to everyone else
  • Ask the person you are speaking with to see how they’d like to be described.
  • Use a normal tone of voice
  • Focus and emphasize on abilities, not disabilities.
  • People living with disabilities are not “super-human” or “hero” or “long-suffering saints”. There is no need to patronize people with disability or imply that they are courageous or special. Some may find it offensive because they are just living their everyday life.
  • Wheelchairs can be considered as an extension of someone’s body. So touching the wheelchair is like touching someone’s body. Respect the personal space around mobility devices.
  • Please don’t pet or distract the guide dog. They are on duty.
  • Use positive and respectful language that fosters inclusive thinking and behaviours
  • Do not refer a person with disability as “patient” unless they are under medical care

Types of Workplace Accommodations

  • Modified hours or days or reduced work hours
    • Modified or different duties
    • Special chair or back support
    • Cane
    • Mobility Scooters
    • Modified or ergonomic workstation
    • Working from home
    • Computer, laptop or tablet with specialized software
    • Human support
    • Adapted or accessible parking
    • Technical aids
    • Accessible elevators
    • Handrails, ramps, widened doorways or hallways
    • Communication aids
    • Adapted washroom
    • Specialized transportation

Inclusive Language around Disability Inclusion

Words do matter. How can we pay attention to our use of language around Disability Inclusion?

Check out Words Matter – Ableism Awareness by Scrog33 here:

What words could we use and/or avoid when we talk about Disability?

How do we address people with disabilities?

Take a look at some tips from the Australian Network of Disability here:


  • Use “person-first language” – Put the person first, and the impairment second

Ex. “person who is deaf”

Ex. “people who have low vision”.

  • To be inclusive of people who may have experienced disability in the past but not any more 

Ex. “person living with disability”

Ex. “person with lived experience of disability”

Take a look at this guideline by the Government of United Kingdom (UK) to get some ideas:

Credit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inclusive-communication/inclusive-language-words-to-use-and-avoid-when-writing-about-disability

Credit: https://ontario.cmha.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CMHAOntarioImpairmentPolicy2019.pdf

what are accomodation accommodation accomodations accommodations
Disability Inclusion

Disability Legislations around the world


The Accessible Canada Act


The Accessible Canada Act builds on the Canadian Human Rights Act, focusing on the prohibition of discrimination based on disability.

[Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessible_Canada_Act]


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.


Disability Discrimination Act 1992


Prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, publicly available premises, provision of goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, and other contexts.

[Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability_Discrimination_Act_1992]

Helpful resources for employers and the public:

Want to learn more about social issues in Disability Inclusion?

Jan Wilson teaches us about Reimagining Disability & Inclusive Education in this TEDx Talks Video on YouTube:

Gary Evans teaches us about Removing barriers to inclusion & participation – user-centred design in this TEDx Talks Video on YouTube:

Jennie Fenton teaches us about Inclusion, belonging and the disability revolution in this TEDx Talks Video on YouTube:

UNICEF teaches us about Inclusive Education and Children with Disabilities:

Brooke Nevin Teaches Canada Something About The Electric Wheelchair by Strombo on YouTube:

Canadian Human Rights Commission – Impaired at Work – A guide to accommodating substance dependence:


  • Duty to Accommodate
  • 5 steps to accommodate substance dependence
    • Recognize the signs
    • Talk about it
    • Gather & consider the relevant medical information
    • Accommodate
    • Follow-up and adjust
  • How far does accommodation have to go?
  • Key considerations regarding drug & alcohol testing
  • Frequently asked questions for employers
  • Drug & Alcohol Testing
  • Your Duty to Accommodate
  • Cannabis in the workplace

Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario (CMHA) – Impairment in the Workplace – What your organization needs to know


  • Understanding substance use and its impact in the workplace
  • What is substance use?
  • What are substance use disorders?
  • Commonly-consumed substances
    • Alcohol
    • Cannabis
    • Medical Cannabis
  • What is impairment?
    • Safety sensitive positions
    • Being “fit for duty”
    • Suspected problematic substance abuse in the workplace
    • Accommodations in the workplace
  • Key Considerations when developing a workplace impairment policy
    • Ensure policies use appropriate language, clear definitions for key terms
    • Develop clear protocol in the event of impairment in the workplace
    • Policies to identify duties of employer
      • Duty to inquire
      • Duty to accommodate
      • Ensure policies identify duties of employers
      • Ensure policies are communicated to staff
  • How do I talk about substance use?

Statistics Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/89-654-X

Canadian Survey on Disability Reports:

  • Workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities in Canada, 2017


  • The evolution of disability data in Canada: Keeping in step with a more inclusive Canada


  • A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017


  • Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017: Concepts and Methods Guide


Disability FAQ

What is Disability Diversity & Inclusion?

Disability Inclusion is to include people with disabilities in our every day life and society. It is to provide accessibility to people with disabilities in areas of employment, communication, business, housing, products and services. It is to provide them with the same opportunity that everyone else in the society gets in every aspect of life.

Why is Disability Inclusion Important?

Disability Inclusion allows accessibility so that everyone can fully participate in the society without barriers to achieve their goals, desires to thrive in life.

Review Overview
Disability & Inclusion
Disability Statistics

About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.

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