Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Canadian Survey on Disability

The Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) is the main source of data describing persons with disability in Canada.

Defining Disability

The Canadian Survey on Disability’s definition of disability includes anyone who reported being "sometimes," "often" or "always" limited in their daily activities due to a long-term condition or health problem, as well as anyone who reported being "rarely" limited if they were also unable to do certain tasks or could only do them with a lot of difficulty.

Disability, in this survey, is interpreted in a social context rather than just focusing on functional health. That is, a disability is a “social disadvantage that an unsupportive environment imposes on top of an individual’s impairment” (Mackenzie et al, 2009). An individual may have a functional impairment without having a disability if their physical and social environment is adapted so that their daily activities are not limited (Grondin, 2016).

Canadian Survey on Disability Sampling Design

The Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) selects a sample from those who responded that they have difficulty “sometimes,” “often,” or “always” to any of the sub-questions on activities of daily living in the long-form census questionnaire. These questions are “filter” questions for the CSD.

Those that are selected to participate in the CSD are further screened using Disability Screening Questions to identify respondents with a disability.

The total sample size for the CSD was approximately 50,000 individuals across Canada in 2017. Since the CSD is based on the population enumerated in the 2016 Census of Population, it also excludes those living in institutions and other collective dwellings, on Canadian Armed Force bases, and on First Nations reserves.

Differences between the Canadian Survey on Disability and Activity Limitations

The activity limitations page includes Canadians that responded affirmatively to the questions used to identify disability on the Census; however this may include those with limitations who do not meet the more rigorous criteria for disability used by the CSD. The activity limitations data from the Census has also received minimal edits or certification from Statistics Canada.

Comparison of Data Over Time

It is not recommended to compare results from the 2012 CSD to the 2017 CSD due to a few key changes between the 2012 and 2017 cycles:

  • A new filter question was added to the 2017 cycle that was more effective at covering persons with less visible disability types, such as cognitive or mental health-related disabilities.
  • The 2012 CSD was conducted entirely by telephone interview, while respondents to the 2017 CSD were able to use an electronic questionnaire that could be self-administered or completed over the phone with assistance of an interview.
  • The 2017 CSD survey frame was established based on the mandatory 2016 Census, which had a response rate of 97.8% (for the long-form), while the 2012 CSD frame was based on the voluntary 2011 NHS, which had a response rate of 77.2%.
  • Several new survey modules and indicators were added in the 2017 CSD.

For more information, please see the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017: Concepts and Methods Guide