Disability: The Global Landscape


Worldwide, around one billion people live with a disability, approximately one million of them, working age. That’s one out of every six people in the world. In fact, this segment is the largest and fastest growing minority in the world, in the US, surpassing the Hispanic population by 5%. In the year 2012, we are seeing disability issues heat up globally and a sign that this push toward disability equality, especially in the workforce/workplace, is not going to let up anytime soon whether from a legislative, services and/or social justice perspective.

The following information serves as a peek into this global landscape.

  • In Australia in 2009, an estimated 18.5% (an estimated 4,000,000 people) had a disability.25.
  • Of those people with disabilities aged 15 to 64, 54% were participating in the labor force, compared to 83% of the people without disabilities.


  • In 2006, there was an estimated 4,417,870 people in Canada with a disability, 14.0% of the total population of Canada. Labor Force • In 2006, an estimated 1,368,880 ages 15 to 64 were in the labor force in Canada with a disability (17.5% of the total labor force in Canada).
  • In 2006, of people with disabilities, 1,250,720 were employed, 118,160 were unemployed, and 1,068,150 were not in the labor force.

AODA, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Legislation went into effect on January 1, 2012. Although Ontario based, companies are employing the practices across the country. Among other things, disability etiquette and awareness is mandated as it relates to serving customers with disabilities.

  • In China in 2006, 6.3% (82,960,000) of the total population were people with disabilities.
  • In 2005, the employment rate of persons with disabilities was 85%.

China is a PwD quota country.

Asia: Korea and Taiwan are have also adopted the quota system although Hong Kong and Singapore have not. 

  • In 2002, in the European Union, 16.4% of the total EU population was people with disabilities.
  • In 2002, in Germany, 11.2% of the total German population was people with disabilities. Under the Equal Opportunities for Disabled People Act of 2002, Germany imposes a 5% quota of PwD. Austria’s quota system is 4%.
  • In 2002, in France, 24.6% of the total French population was people with disabilities. France enforces quotas for hiring individuals with disabilities (6%) but in 2011 added secondary legislation for physical access to buildings. Companies found not to be in compliance are liable to fines, which benefit an association that assists persons with disabilities in finding work. The average employment rate of persons with disabilities for those companies subject to the law was approximately 4.5 percent.  In Italy, the Right to Work fo Disabled People of 2000 set their quota at 7%. 
  • In 2002, in the United Kingdom, 27.2% of the total UK population was disabled. The Equality Act of 2010 serves as the current legislation governing PwD. It aligns closely with the U.S. ADAAA focusing on the accommodations rather than the disability.
  • In 2006, approximately 1.9% (an estimated 21,900,000 people) have a disability in India.
  • In 2006, the employment rate for people with disabilities was 34.0%. Just this month, India established a new Department of Disability Affairs.
  • In Japan in 2008, 5.7% (7,238,000) of the total population were people with disabilities.
  • In 2008, the employment rate for persons without disabilities was 72.3%, while the employment rate for persons with disabilities is 40.3%.

As for Japan’s Quota system:

  • Fines for not meeting the quotas (1.8%) are called levy’s
  • Companies with more than 300 employees that do not comply must pay a fine of 50,000 yen ($425) per vacant position per month
  • Adjustment subsidies and financial incentives from the levy are used as a resource for those employers who do meet the requirement and also provides a grant to companies that can prove they are improving the working environment for PwD’s.
  • There are specials offered meaning people with severe disabilities may be counted as two people for calculation purposes
  • A survey found that in private companies with more than 56 workers, 1.6 percent of employees had disabilities


  • In the most recent study, in 2000, an estimated 1.8% (1,795,300 people) of Mexico’s total population had a disability.55 

Labor Force

  • 14% of people with disabilities in Mexico earn no money, and 22.6% earn less than minimum wage.
  • The most common occupations for people with disabilities in Mexico are:
    • Farmers (23.4%)
    • Craftsmen and manual workers (17.1%)
    • Merchants and self-employed (13%)
United States


  • In 2010:
    • It is estimated there were 36,354,712 people with disabilities in the U.S.
    • 11.9% of the U.S. population.
    • 10,271,501 people had a hearing disability
    • 6,387,830 people had a vision disability
    • 13,768,954 people had a cognitive difficulty
    • 19,518,890 people had an ambulatory difficulty
    • 7,362,940 people had a self-care difficulty
    • 12,985,626 people had an independent living difficulty

Labor Force

  • In 2010, an estimated 7,984,903 of people ages 18-64 were in the labor force with a disability (5.4% of the labor force).
  • During the Fiscal Year 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 25,742 charges of disability discrimination.
  • Of accommodations done by employers, 49.4% of employers completed accommodations with no cost,and 50.6% of employers who completed accommodations had a cost of lessthan $600.
    • Of those with cost, 84.7% was a one-time cost
    • The remaining 15.3% had either an annual cost or a combination of one-time and annual costs

Approximately 11% of college freshman are students with disabilities.

There is proposed legislation to mandate 7% targets of all new hires be PwD for companies that are US Federal Contractors.