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Statistics Canada surveyed over 50,000 Canadians in 2017 for the Canadian Survey on Disability found that there are 6.2 million (22.3%) Canadians aged 15 and older who have a disability where disability is defined as “youth and adults whose everyday activities are limited due to a long-term condition or health-related problem” (2017). This survey was based on answers in the 2016 census and resulted in some limitations as it targeted people living in private dwellings and excluded people living in collective housing or on First Nations reserves. We look forward to future surveys that can help us understand areas of improvement.

Extrapolating from this, the ORL service population aged 15 years and older is approximately 82,000 adults living with a disability that affect their daily life in the ORL service area.  Statistics Canada estimates that approximately 4% of kids are living with a disability.  For the ORL, this means we can estimate that 2,300 kids are living with a disability in the ORL service area.

There are many types of disability – the most prominent ones are: pain (14.5%), flexibility (10%), mobility (9.6%), mental health-related (7.2%), and seeing (5.4%).

A bar chart with eleven types of disabilities on the vertical axis and ORL service population on the horizontal axis.

The estimated population for these different disabilities are

  • Unknown: 2,205
  • Developmental: 4,042
  • Memory: 13,963
  • Learning: 14,331
  • Dexterity: 16,903
  • Hearing: 17,638
  • Seeing: 19,843
  • Mental Health-related: 26,457
  • Mobility: 35,276
  • Flexibility: 36,746
  • Pain: 53,282

We also know that as people age, their disability rates increase.  The rate of disability with seniors is much higher than in children.  In Canada 43.4% of seniors aged 65+ have a disability, compared with 3.7% of children (aged 14 and under) [1].  Statistics Canada is currently running a survey specifically looking at early-learning and childcare for children with disabilities and the ORL looks forward to learning more from the results of this survey.

Our Experience with Accessibility

For a long time, the ORL has included accessibility in our services, especially our services to print disability customers.  We began thinking about accessibility from a system-wide perspective with intention in 2016 by hiring our Community Engagement Coordinator, and in early 2020 when we hired a Library Access Assistant, who focuses on print disability customers.  Since then, we have been increasing our knowledge, connections, and partnerships with the disability community.  


ORL Branches host many different programs for those needing accessibility support.  Each branch is slightly different.  Our programs can be found on our events calendar.


The ORL has several different accessible collections both physical and online.  Our Accessibility Services page links them all including Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS), and DAISY players and discs.

Our collections librarians work to ensure a diversity of subjects and topics are in our collection for a wide variety of disabilities.


We offer some specialized services for those that need to overcome barriers, which are listed on our Accessibility Services page, and include:

  • Different membership status for print disability or extended loan customers. 
  • Selection Service by our Access Services team.  
  • Additional accessible equipment at some ORL branches.

Our staff love to help and are constantly learning how to provide better customer service as our membership grows.

[1] A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017 (statcan.gc.ca).