Today, nearly 1 in 10 Canadians suffers from a learning disability. That means about 120,000 Manitobans (and 3.3 million Canadians) have difficulty functioning in a world that increasingly demands higher levels of literacy and numeracy.
While we’ve come a long way in understanding learning disabilities, they remain a largely unseen drag on our society. The Roeher Institute – a leading Canadian organization dedicated to research and advocacy for people with disabilities – estimates the average economic cost to society of an individual’s learning disability is nearly $2 million from birth to retirement.
Learning disabilities take an even more insidious toll on individuals and their families, leading to depression, unemployment and unfulfilled promise. People with learning disabilities may do poorly in school or drop out altogether. Once out of school, they frequently have difficulty finding employment.
According to Statistics Canada, 42 per cent of people with learning disabilities are unemployed, which is six times more than the general population.
The unemployment statistics are bad enough, but they’re not as stark as the numbers we see from the justice system. Nearly one in four inmates in Canadian prisons have a learning disability.