Disability in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

A disability is any condition, physical or mental, that significantly impacts a person’s life activities. The most common types of disability affect mobility, hearing, vision, and cognition. As of 2016, around 12.8 percent of the U.S. population had some type of disability. Disability is more common among older individuals, with those aged 65 years and older accounting for 41.4 percent of the disabled population in the U.S.

The most common type of disability in the U.S. is ambulatory disability, which affects a person’s mobility. In 2016, an estimated 6.6 percent of people in the U.S. had such a disability. As with all disabilities, ambulatory disabilities are more common among older people, with 22.5 percent of those aged 65 years and older having such a disability, compared to only 5.1 percent of those aged 18 to 64 years. Ambulatory disabilities are most common in the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The states with the lowest rates of ambulatory disability are Utah and Minnesota, with 4.4 and 4.8 percent of the population of these states with this disability respectively.

Because disabilities affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, they can significantly impact one’s ability to work. In 2016, the employment rate among those with a disability was 36 percent, compared to almost 77 percent for those without a disability. Those with hearing disabilities were employed at higher rates than any other disability, with around 52 percent of this population employed, compared to 44 percent of people with a vision disability, and 26 percent of those with a cognitive disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects the rights of those suffering from a disability and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against people with disabilities in various ways. However, a lack of understanding and negative attitudes towards such employees can still adversely affect employment opportunities for those with disabilities.

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