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Disability Statistics in the United States

Nov 29, 2018

Many people are surprised to learn how much of the population lives with a disability.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 adults in the US has a disability, including impairments with vision, hearing, mobility, and cognition. This proportion only grows with age, with 40 percent of those over age 65 living with a disability.

What’s more, the US Census Bureau projects that in 2030, people 65 years and older will outnumber children for the first time in the country’s history, which suggests that disabilities may increase in the next decade. 2030 also marks the year that all baby boomers will be at least 65.

As a result, governments and businesses need to ensure that they are prepared to fully accommodate people with disabilities. In particular, as digital technologies become ever more important to society, organizations must ensure that their websites, apps, and all digital properties are accessible.

Before diving too deep into the statistics on disability, note that the exact percentages may vary from study to study. There are three major reasons for the discrepancy:

  • Different studies may use separate definitions of terms such as “disability,” depending on how seriously a condition impacts the person’s daily life.
  • Surveys conducted at different times may find different results due to demographic changes in the US population.
  • Not all disabilities are permanent or long-lasting; some are short-term or temporary, or can be improved over time with treatment.

In the next few sections, we’ll discuss how disabilities affect people in different parts of life: employment, education, and poverty.

General disability statistics

Disability and employment

Employment rates for people with disabilities are consistently less than half of people without disabilities. In 2016, 77 percent of people in the US without a disability were employed full-time or part-time, but only 36 percent of people with disabilities were employed.

In addition, employment rates among people with disabilities vary significantly, depending on the type of disability. Although 52 percent of people with hearing disabilities are employed, the percentage decreases to just 25 percent for people with motor disabilities.

Disability, income, and poverty

The employment discrepancy between people with and without disabilities extends to their incomes as well. People with disabilities in the US who were 16 and over earned a median income of $22,047 in 2016, significantly lower than the median income of $32,497 for people without disabilities.

Given this difference, it’s not surprising that people with disabilities are more likely to be in poverty. In 2016, the poverty rate for people with disabilities was 21 percent, versus 13 percent for people without disabilities.

Disability and education

People with disabilities often experience challenges at all levels of the educational system. For example, only 16 percent of people with disabilities have completed a bachelor’s degree, versus 35 percent of people without disabilities. In addition, 20 percent of people with a disability do not have a high school diploma, versus 10 percent of people without a disability.

The time for digital accessibility is now

If you’re an advocate for disability rights and digital accessibility and you want to help someone learn the reasons for and best practices of accessibility, read How to Introduce People to Digital Accessibility: 7 Tips.

To learn how we can help with your website accessibility, talk to us. Or, get started with a free and confidential website accessibility scan. We look forward to helping you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance.

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