A new report from Statistics Canada says most Canadians who live with a disability experience some kind of variance in their ailment, such as fluctuations in severity or duration of heightened symptoms.
The Dynamics of Disability: Progressive, Recurrent or Fluctuating Limitations outlines four main definitions for how disabilities may vary by the individual or ailment:
- Progressive (experienced limitations that worsened over time)
- Recurrent (ailments with periods of a month or more without experiencing limitations)
- Fluctuating (shorter periods in which a person experiences fluctuation in limitations)
- Continuous (a disability that tends to remain stable over a long period of time)
“Continuous” is the conventional definition of disability, and is the most commonly considered definition in government social assistance programs, but the report shows that three in five people with disabilities don’t fit that conventional view. Mental health disorders, for instance, may be episodic in nature and wouldn’t fall into the traditional “continuous” definition, but could often be considered progressive, recurrent or fluctuating.
According to Statistics Canada, of the 6.2 million Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, just 39 per cent (2.4 million) experienced conventional, continuous limitations. Meanwhile, 61 per cent (3.8 million) experienced some type of disability dynamic.
The results of this report fall in line with recent concerns Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division has raised over the provincial government’s proposed reforms to social assistance that include changes to the definition of disability under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Specifically, the province said it was reviewing the definition of disability to provide clarity to the system around who qualifies for ODSP in the future and would look at aligning Ontario’s definition of disability more closely with federal government guidelines, which aren’t as flexible to accommodate the needs of episodic disabilities.