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Disability by the numbers

In July, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) marked its 22nd birthday. This groundbreaking legislation guaranteed equal opportunities for the disabled in public accommodation, employment, transportation and other areas of life. Some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau are appropriate as we celebrate this anniversary.

There were 87 million people with self-identified disabilities in the United States, or 19 percent of the civilian population. Eight percent of children under age 15 have disabilities, while 50 percent of adults older than 65 are disabled. Women are more likely to be disabled than men, with 20 percent of females and 17 percent of males reporting a disability.

Types of Disabilities

Certain disabilities are more common than others:

  • Eight million people over age 15 are hearing impaired. Of these, more than half are over age 65.
  • Eight percent of people over 15 have vision problems that are considered disabilities.
  • Thirty-one million people have problems walking and climbing stairs.
  • Four million people use wheelchairs; 12 million use canes, crutches or walkers.


Forty-one percent of disabled people age 21 to 64 are employed.

Twenty-eight percent of people with severe disabilities are employed; 71 percent of people with non-severe disabilities are employed.


The monthly median income for disabled people age 21 to 64 is $1, 961,; people with no disability average $2, 724. People with severe disabilities averaged $1,577, while those with non-severe disabilities reported $2,402.


Fifty-nine percent of people with severe disabilities received public assistance. Some receive Social Security old Age pensions, while others receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, food stamps, public housing, and health care such as Medicaid or Medicare.

People who are disabled and who have worked long enough to pay into the Social Security Disability system may be eligible for disability benefits. Determining eligibility and obtaining benefits can be complicated, so many people turn to lawyers or advocates such as those at Binder & Binder®, the National Social Security Disability Advocates.

Source:, "Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act," Aug. 5, 2012.

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