On Campus

Learning limitations and educational attainment

People with disabilities still face barriers to post-secondary education

Today is Disability Awareness Day at Memorial University of Newfoundland. A campus Disability Awareness Information Fair and a Panel Discussion have been organized to educate students, staff and faculty about disability issues.

According to the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) conducted by Statistics Canada, approximately 631,000 (2.5%) Canadians aged 15 years and older report having a learning limitation. Just over one in five (22.4%) considered their learning limitations to be severely limiting, while the remaining 77.6% regarded their limitations to be mild.

In 2006, just one-third of people with a learning limitation had completed education beyond the high school level. A total of 14.7% had obtained a community college or non-university credential, 10.6% obtained a trade or apprenticeship certification, 4.4% held a bachelor’s degree, and 4.0% completed university education beyond the bachelor’s level.

The PALS results demonstrate that learning limitations affect a person’s education in numerous ways. The proportion of individuals who reported that their limitation influenced their choice of careers was 59.3%. A further 53.1% required more time to finish school, 35.6% had to discontinue their education, 34.1% had their education interrupted for long time periods, and 17.4% incurred additional educational expenses due to their learning limitation.

As difficult as it may be to believe, people with disabilities still face barriers to post-secondary education such as limited physical access to facilities and a lack of institutional sensitivity to their unique needs. In addition to reducing their chances of gaining and keeping employment, their lack of access to educational opportunities ultimately limits their participation in Canadian society.