Releasing Constraints: Projecting the Economic Impacts of Increased Accessibility in Ontario

This study, commissioned by the Government of Ontario, examines the potential economic impact of achieving substantially higher levels of accessibility. In 2010, the Province will introduce five proposed standards through which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005 will be implemented. These standards are intended to achieve substantially higher levels of accessibility. Our study reviews the economic impact of increased accessibility on individuals, on markets, and on social units. We find that there are opportunities at all three levels to realize non-trivial economic gains through enabling a higher number of Ontarians to participate fully in the province’s economy.

The most significant potential gains could be realized in workplaces and schools. Enabling increased workforce participation among persons with disabilities (PwD) will not only increase their individual and family income, but it could also increase the GDP per capita in Ontario by up to $600 per annum. As new standards are implemented to enable people with disabilities to achieve parity with average educational achievement in Ontario, there could be an additional boost to Ontario’s GDP per capita of up to $200. While the study does not examine the relationship between specific policy inputs and these outcomes, our research clearly indicates that there are large pools of untapped human capital that could help drive Ontario’s prosperity.

Ontario’s businesses can benefit from these standards in three ways. First, increased access to retail and tourism opportunities would result in accelerated growth in these sectors. Second, a number of Ontario regions have the capacity to support significant clusters of accessibility-focused businesses able to serve global markets. Third, our universities, colleges and other institutions can help educate the next generation of workers and develop new intellectual property that can prepare businesses to compete in the growing number of markets defined by accessibility requirements.

Finally, we review research on the costs of social exclusion. We found that exclusion exacts significant costs from the entire province through increased health care demands and poverty related social problems. These costs are not entirely absorbed by PwD, but have a significant impact on the families and communities which provide support to them.

We do not have the capacity to evaluate the potential impact of specific policy initiatives or to recommend particular elements be included in the standards. What we have learned, however, leads us to conclude that every day that people who want to learn cannot, people who want to work do not, and businesses that wish to serve these markets must wait to see what will be required, Ontario is losing extremely valuable contributions from its citizens. Releasing the constraints that limit full participation in the economy will create a significant force for economic growth.


Our Team

Alison Kemper, Project Leader
Kevin Stolarick, Research Director (MPI)
James Milway, Executive Director (MPI) & (ICP)
Jutta Treviranus, Director (ATRC)

Project Team
Mark Denstedt, Ronnie Sanders, Michelle Hopgood, Lloyd Martin, Sana Nisar, Jorge Silva, Vera Roberts, Karen King, Kim Ryan, Kim Silk, Jacqueline Whyte Appleby, Patrick Adler, Zara Matheson, Vass Bednar, Brian Hracs, Joe Minichini, Iris Lee