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June 13, 2018

The number of people with disabilities in Nova Scotia

I've often wondered how many people with disabilities there really are in Nova Scotia.  Always the numbers come from self-identification - the census and various surveys.  They never are independently verified, so having a disability could range from quadriplegia to having a bad back.  From being mildly dyslexic to being blind.  From depressed to institutionalized.

Dalhousie does an employee census, 1700 responses.  5.6% with a disability.  That's 95 people.  The province does a similar exercise.  They report their labour force of 11,000 is 9.2% persons with disabilities - 1,012.  HRM has had a Diversity Office for several years, but has not produced a report, claiming privacy concerns.

Statistics Canada says 18.8% of Nova Scotians are people with disabilities.  That's roughly 200,000 people.

As far as I know, the only independent assessment of just who is a person with a disability is done by the Canada Revenue Agency.  In order to receive a Disability Tax Credit of $8,000 or so, a doctor's signature is needed.

The DTC makes one eligible for a Registered Disability Savings Program.  Buried deep in a 2015 report on RDSPs are some revealing numbers:

123,020 Canadians have an RDSP
The average value is  $21,444
There are 443,241 eligible Canadians age 0 to 50 (people with  a DTC)
So the uptake is 24.3%

In Nova Scotia
3,332 have RDSPs
Average value $17,644
19,040 Eligible
17.5% uptake

19,040 is about a tenth of the 200,000 number we usually use, but my reading of it is that it's the actual number of those receiving a DTC, and therefore quite a realistic number.

$17,644 net worth puts a person somewhere in the second quintile of Canadians, a fact lost on many in the business community.  When it comes time to cash out, there are certain advantages to a RDSP, making each dollar go further.

The 19,040 number is probably low, as not everyone has to file taxes or needs a credit of any kind (the DTC is non-refundable), but it would be very difficult to get to 200,000 people with disabilities.

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