Where’s the Data?

There are many gaps in the disability data collected and publicly available in Canada. It’s difficult to find reliable data on:

  • How many Canadians are living with disabilities
  • How much governments are spending on disability services and supports
  • How many Canadians are on waiting lists to receive services and supports

How can governments properly structure support systems or ensure responsible spending if they don’t have this information? Better data is necessary to ensure Canadians who require supports and services are able to get them. This is why Every Canadian Counts is advocating for better data collection.

What data is available?

In early 2014, Every Canadian Counts looked into what data was available for the developmental sector, only one part of the overall disability support system. Specifically, we tried to gather data on developmental disability prevalence, expenditure on developmental supports and services, and waiting list numbers. Our findings can be viewed by clicking on the data table below.


Much of the information is not available and the data we did find is not very reliable. This is representative of the state of data collection across the entire disability supports system in Canada.

Every Canadian Counts is connecting with Canadian data collection agencies to advocate for improved data collection and public access to information. This will allow us to assess what the needs are, how is much is being spent to meet needs and where there are shortfalls. We can then start looking at ways to address these shortfalls.

Why is reliable data on disability in Canada not available?

  • There is no national or provincial and territorial legislation to ensure this data is collected.
  • There are no national or provincial and territorial mechanisms in place to collect reliable data.
  • Government-funded supports are delivered and monitored by various departments (healthcare, long-term care, social services, education). Each collects different types of data. There is no requirement for departments to share information or to publish collective data on developmental supports.
  • Not all supports are delivered through government-funded programs. Charities and private agencies also provide supports, so getting numbers that combine expenditure and demand from all these providers is challenging.
  • Numbers vary depending on how disability is defined. Definitions vary by province and territory and between agencies providing supports. Without a standard, national definition we cannot expect data to be comparable between locations.