Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Ageing, disability and workplace accommodations

Document type Article
Author McMullin, Julie Ann
Author Shuey, Kim M.
Journal Ageing and Society
Volume 26
Date 2006
ISSN 0144-686X, 1469-1779
Pages 831-847


In most western nations, laws discourage discrimination in paid employment on the basis of disability, but for these policies to be of benefit, individuals must define their functional limitations as disabilities. There is a strong relationship between age and disability among those of working age, yet it is unclear whether older workers attribute their limitations to disability or to ‘ natural ageing ’. If the latter is true, they may not believe that they need or qualify for workplace accommodations (i.e. adaptations or interventions at the workplace). Similarly, if an employer as- cribes a worker’s limitation to ‘natural ageing’, rather than to a disability, they may not offer compensatory accommodation. Using data from the Canadian 2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, this paper asks whether workers who as- cribe their functional limitation to ageing are as likely as those who do not to report a need for a workplace accommodation. It also addresses whether those who identify a need for compensatory accommodations and who ascribe their limi- tation to ageing have unmet workplace-accommodation needs. The findings sug- gest that, even when other factors are controlled, e.g. the type and severity of disability, the number of limiting conditions, gender, age, education, income and occupation, those who made the ageing attribution were less likely to recognise the need for an accommodation; and among those who acknowledged a need, those who ascribed their disability to ageing were less likely to have their needs met.