8 facts about Americans with disabilities (2023)

8 facts about Americans with disabilities (1)

July isDisability Pride Monthin the United States, commemorating the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act more than 30 years ago. Overall, there are about 42.5 million Americans with disabilities, which is 13% of the non-institutionalized civilian population, according to 2021 US Census Bureau data. This group includes people who are hearing impaired, visually impaired, cognitive, walking, personal care or independent living. .

Here are eight facts about Americans with disabilities, based on government data and recent surveys from the Pew Research Center.

how did we do this

The Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to share key data about Americans with disabilities for Disability Pride Month.

The analysis includes data from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey, whichdefines disability statusasks about six types of disability: severe problems with hearing, vision, cognition, walking or climbing stairs, and difficulties with self-care and independent living. Other studies with other definitions haveestimated that a significantly higher proportion of Americans have disabilities.

Occupational data by disability status comes fromBureau of Labor Statistics.

Federal education data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. For purposes of this analysis, students with disabilities include those ages 3 to 21 who receive services under federal law.The Education Act for Persons with Disabilities(IDEA). Through IDEA, children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public school education and guaranteed special education and related services.

Hispanics in this analysis are of any race. All other race categories include those who are not Hispanic and identify as a single race.

The public's results in this analysis are based on surveys by the Pew Research Center. Details of the questions and methodology of each study are available via links in this analysis.

Due to the nature of direct telephone surveys, it is likely that some Americans with disabilities are underrepresented in this analysis. The numbers reported on technology adoption and Internet use come from a telephone survey that was conducted via landlines and cell phones and likely did not count adults who are deaf or hard of speech. Our surveys also do not cover people living in institutionalized group housing, which may include some people with severe disabilities.

Older Americans are significantly more likely than younger adults to have a disability.About 46% of Americans aged 75 and older and 24% of those aged 65 to 74 report having a disability, according to estimates from2021 American Community Survey fra Census Bureau(ACS). This compares with 12% of adults 35-64 and 8% of adults under 35.

Americans of certain racial and ethnic groups are more likely to have a disability.American Indians and Alaska Natives (18%) are more likely than Americans of other racial and ethnic origins to report having a disability, according to 2021 ACS estimates. Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans are less likely to say they have a disability have a disability (8% and 10%, respectively). The percentage of black and white Americans who report living with a disability is in the middle (14% each).

The most common types of disabilities in the United States involve difficulties with walking, independent living, or cognition.According to ACS estimates, about 7% of Americans report having severe walking problems (struggling to walk or climb stairs). Adults 75 or older and those 65 to 74 are the most likely to report having this type of disability (30% and 15%, respectively). Much smaller proportions of people 35-64 (6%) and 18-34 (1%) say they have an ambulatory disability.

About 6% of Americans report difficulty living an independent life, struggling to run errands on their own due to physical, mental, or emotional problems. And a similar proportion (5%) report cognitive difficulties, that is, they have problems remembering, concentrating or making decisions. Each of these disabilities is more common among older Americans than among younger age groups.

Americans with disabilities tend to earn less than those without disabilities.People with disabilities earned a median of $28,438 in 2021 compared to $40,948 among people without disabilities,according to the Census Bureau. (These figures represent non-institutionalized employed civilian Americans age 16 and older. They reflect past 12-month earnings in 2021 inflation-adjusted dollars.)

On average, people with disabilities made up 4% of employed Americans in 2022,according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS). They were most likely to be employed in management occupations (12%) and clerical and clerical support occupations (11%), according to annual averages compiled by the BLS, which tracks 22 occupational categories. Meanwhile, an average of about 10% of transportation and material handling workers had a disability by 2022.

Americans with disabilities have lower technology adoption rates for some devices.American adults with a disability are less likely than those without a disability to say they own a desktop or laptop computer (62% vs. 81%) or a smartphone (72% vs. 88%), according toa center survey for winter 2021. The survey asked respondents if "handicap, disability, or chronic illness prevents you from participating fully in work, school, chores, or other activities." (It is important to note that there are a number of ways to measure disability in public opinion polls.)

Similar percentages of Americans with and without disabilities say they have high-speed Internet at home. Yet Americans with disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to report daily Internet use (75% vs. 87%). And Americans with disabilities are three times more likely than those without disabilities to say theyNeverconnect (15% vs. 5%).

The proportion of US public school students receiving special education or related services has increased over the past decade,according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. During the 2021-22 school year, there were 7.3 million studentsreceive special education or related services in US public schools., which constitutes 15% of the total registration. This number increased from 2010-11, when 6.4 million students with disabilities accounted for 13% of public school enrollment.

In 2021-22, the percentage of students with disabilities in public schools varied by state, from about 20% in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maine to about 12% in Idaho and Texas. These disparities are likely the result of discrepancies in how statesdetermine which students are eligible for special education servicesand some of the challenges associated with diagnosing disability in children.

Americans with disabilities are much more likely than other Americans to have faced mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic,according toan analysis from the Winter 2022 Centrewhich examined survey responses from the same Americans over time.

About two-thirds (66%) of adults who have a disability or health condition that prevents them from participating fully in work, school, household chores or other activities reported a high level of distress at least once in four surveys conducted between March 2020 and September 2022. This compares with 34% of those without a disability.

Employed Americans generally believe that their workplace is accessible to people with physical disabilities.Among those who do not work completely remotely, 76% say their workplace is at least somewhat accessible to people with physical disabilities, according toa survey from the February Center. This includes the 51% who say it is extremely or very accessible. Another 17% say their workplace is not particularly or not at all accessible, while 8% are not sure.

Regardless of whether they consider their own workplace to be accessible or not, half of the workers say that they place a high value on physical accessibility in the workplace. Workers with disabilities are just as likely to say this as those without disabilities. (Employees are defined as those who are not self-employed and work in a company or organization with more than 10 people.)

Note: This is an update to a post originally published on July 27, 2017.



8 facts about Americans with disabilities (6)

rebeca leppert is a copyeditor at the Pew Research Center.


8 facts about Americans with disabilities (7)

katherine schaeffer is a research analyst at the Pew Research Center.



What are important facts about disability? ›

Key facts
  • An estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disability. ...
  • Some persons with disabilities die up to 20 years earlier than those without disabilities.
  • Persons with disabilities have twice the risk of developing conditions such as depression, asthma, diabetes, stroke, obesity or poor oral health.
Mar 7, 2023

What are 2 basic facts about disability? ›

Over 1 billion people worldwide have significant disability.

An estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disability. This represents 16% of the world's population, or 1 in 6 of us.

Did you know disability facts? ›

About half of Americans ages 75 and older (49.8%) reported living with a disability in 2015, as did about a quarter (25.4%) of those 65 to 74. In contrast, just 6% of Americans ages 18 to 34 and 13% of those 35 to 64 said they had a disability.


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