What financial assistance is available to employees with invisible disabilities?
As the name implies, invisible disabilities are disabilities that are not immediately noticeable. In a society where disabilities are often marked by signage featuring a little white figure in a wheelchair (parking spaces, ramps, electronic doors), a disability that does not have immediately noticeable physical features, behaviours, or assistive devices can challenge our preconceptions of what a disabled person “looks” like.
So, how do you get additional support as an employee with an invisible disability outside of the workplace? These systems are relatively new, as prior to 1986 standard disability deductions were solely reserved by the Canada Revenue Agency for individuals who used wheelchairs or were blind. Thanks to disability activists working hard to gain visibility and awareness of the vast array of mental and physical disabilities, the CRA has since introduced more taxable income benefits to persons with disabilities.
In 2005, the term “prolonged impairments” became the standard to help people determine their eligibility, which further broadened the spectrum of applicable candidates and made accessing these frameworks even more accessible.
In Canada, there are several options for financial support as a person with a disability, including:
- Canada Pension Plan disability benefits. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit is a monthly payment you can get if you: are under 65, have made enough contributions into the CPP, have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work, and/or have a disability that is long-term and of indefinite duration. This benefit is based on application, so make sure to apply to ensure eligibility.
- Federal excise gasoline tax refund program. If you have a permanent mobility impairment and cannot safely use public transportation, you can ask for a refund of part of the federal excise tax on the gasoline you buy to help equalize transportation costs.
- Canada Disability Savings Grant and Bond. If you have a Registered Disability Savings Plan, you can register for Canada Disability Savings Grants and Bonds, which is a matching grant. That means that the Government also pays into the RDSP and gives matching grants of up to 300 percent, depending on the beneficiary’s family income and contribution.
- Education funding for people with disabilities. There are a number of options for people with disabilities to increase their educational standing and skillsets in Canada, including grants for students with permanent disabilities; financial assistance for students with a permanent disability enrolled at a designated post-secondary institution; grants for services and equipment for students with permanent disabilities; grants towards tuition, textbook, and accommodation costs for eligible students with a permanent disability; and under the Canada student loans program, a severe permanent disability benefit.
- Disability Tax Credit. The Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit created by the Canadian Government and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to reduce the amount of income tax Canadians with disabilities have to pay annually to assist with the financial impact of having a disability. The tax credit is broken down into Provincial and Federal amounts. If you qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, other programs such as Worker’s Benefits and Child Disability Benefits may be available to you.
There are also two laws and regulations supporting people with disabilities:
- Canada Disability Savings Act, which is a regulation to encourage savings for persons with disabilities by ensuring that existing support frameworks are legally protected and maintained.
- Canada Disability Savings Regulations, which permits beneficiaries of Registered Disability Savings Plans to “carry forward” entitlements to Canada Disability Savings Grants and Bonds.
The Canadian Human Rights Act (the Act) prohibits discrimination in employment on a number of grounds, including disability. To ensure that your employees with disabilities are fully supported and accommodated in the workplace, the Government of Canada has published a helpful guide for managers and organizations. For bespoke diversity and equality guidance, contact Canadian Equality Consulting today if you have further questions about how to make your workplace more responsive to the needs of your diverse employees.