Literacy and Disabilities*

Despite rapid advances in technology and learning tools, people with disabilities are still being left behind on their journey towards literacy.Footnote i

Literacy rates among people with disabilities in Canada

Statistics on the literacy rates among people with disabilities is limited. While there are some statistics on disabilities and some on adult literacy, there is a need for further research on literacy rates among people with disabilities.

Literacy needs among people with disabilities

The best way to understand the literacy needs of people with disabilities is to listen. Listening to individuals with disabilities, as well as organizations that represent them can help everyone to understand the relationship between literacy and disabilities. Here is what we currently know:

* Note: In this fact sheet, we refer to disabilities that are physical, intellectual, visual, psychiatric and/or hearing-related. Information on learning disabilities is contained in another MCL fact sheet..

Literacy needs among people with disabilities (continued)

What can be done?

To build a society that values inclusion it is important to challenge the assumption that literacy is only reading and writing on paper. There are multiple literacies and multiple ways of communicating including American Sign Language, Braille, technologies, gestures and sounds. Here are some ways to help make Canada a society that truly includes everyone:

Suggested Literacy and Disabilities Resources

Skip footnote section

Return to note i Literacy for Independent Living-Canadian Association for Independent Living Centres, 2003.

Return to note ii Statistics Canada (2003). Participant and Activity Limitation Survey: A profile of disability in Canada, 2001. The Daily. December 3, 2003. Ottawa.

Return to note iii Rioux, M., Zubrow, E., Stutt Bunch, M., Miller, W. (2003). Atlas of Literacy and Disability. Canadian Abilities Foundation. Toronto.

Return to note iv Shalla, V. & Schellenberg, G. (1998). The Value of Words: Literacy and Economic Security in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: Ministry of Industry.

Return to note v Macht, J. (2000). Literacy and Disability. Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, BC.

Return to note vi Kapsalis, C. (1999). The Effect of Disability on Literacy Skills. (Data Probe Economic Consulting Inc.) Nepean.

Return to note vii Sussman, S. (2003) Moving the Markers. New Perspectives on Adult Literacy Rates in Canada. Movement for Canadian Literacy. Ottawa.

Return to note viii St. Denis, V. and Hampton, E. (2002). Literature Review on Racism and the Effects on Aboriginal Education. Indian and Northern Affairs. Ottawa.

Return to note ix Sanders, M. (1991) Meeting Challenges: A literacy project for adults with developmental disabilities. Prospects Adult Literacy Association. Edmonton.

This fact sheet was developed/assembled as part of the Literacy and Disabilities Study (LADS) project by Bow Valley College, Calgary and the Neil Squire Foundation. 04/04