On the Home Front: Poverty, Disability, Housing and Help with Everyday Activities


Following the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada used the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) to gather information about people with disabilities. Disability was defined as any long-term or recurring difficulty in activities related to hearing, seeing, communicating, mobility, agility, learning or similar activities or a condition or health problem that reduces the amount or kind of activity people can do at home, work, school or other activities such as transportation or leisure. Based on PALS, 16.5% of adults or almost 4.2 million Canadians have at least one disability.

Together, the Census and PALS provide information about people with disabilities who live on low incomes (people in households that spend after taxes 20% or more than the average on food, shelter and clothing). This is the after tax low-income cut-off (LICO) and is sometimes called the ‘poverty line’. It doesn’t include disability-related costs such as medication, services or aids for mobility, communication or learning. In 2005 almost half a million (20.5%) working-age adults 15 to 64 years with disabilities lived on a low income. This fact sheet looks at the relationship between poverty, disability, living arrangements and residential needs of Canadians with and without disabilities.


 People with disabilities of working age are about twice as likely to live on a low income as their counterparts without disabilities.

After age 65 the rate low income among people with disabilities drops significantly and stays low – like the rate for seniors without disabilities – during the retirement years. This may be because government benefits help supplement incomes and reduce costs for seniors with and without disabilities.


Although women are slightly more likely than men to report disability (53.2% and 46.8%, respectively), overall there is only a slight difference in their chances of living on a low income (21.3% of women and 19.6 % of men). However, that picture changes where women are heads of single parent households. Here, more than a third (33.7%) live on low incomes.


While 30.8% of people with disabilities live in rental housing, 44% of renters with disabilities live on low incomes compared to 24.7% of their renter counterparts without disabilities.

Among people with disabilities living on a low income, 15.5% live in housing that is in need of major repairs because of plumbing problems and electrical wiring and structural issues, compared with 9.8% of people without disabilities who live on low incomes.

Living Arrangements

Poverty levels differ for people with and without disabilities depending on their living arrangements. For instance, people with disabilities are somewhat more likely to be lone parents (7.3% vs. 5%), about as likely to live with unrelated others (4.1% regardless of disability) but twice as likely to live alone (17.3% compared to 9.4%). However:

Among lone parents, people with disabilities are much more likely than people without disabilities to have low income (33.5% vs.19.9%).

People with disabilities are also much more likely to be living on a low income if living with unrelated others (61.2% vs. 36.9%) or if living alone (53.5% vs. 23.3%).

Low Income and Help with Everyday Activities

People with disabilities who live on low incomes are more likely than their counterparts with higher incomes to need help with everyday activities because of disability (66.3% compared to 58.9%). Everyday activities include preparing meals, housework, errands, personal care, in-home medical care, moving around within the personal residence, and childcare due to the parent’s disability.

People with disabilities living in low-income households are more likely than their counterparts with higher incomes to indicate that they receive only some of the help they need (27.1% vs. 21.3%) or none of the help needed (10.2% vs. 4.7%, respectively).

Low-income Rates by Need for Help with Everyday Activities

People with disabilities who receive only some or none of the help they need with everyday activities are more likely (24.8% and 35.8%, respectively) to have a low income than people with disabilities who do not need or receive any help (16.8%).

Only 18.5% of people with disabilities living in low-income households reported receiving all of the support they need with everyday activities.


This information was produced through the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship project, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC) Community-University Research Alliances (CURA).