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Advocacy / Disability Awareness / Statistics

Disability Statistics and Demographics

In its deliberations on the Americans with Disabilities Act in the early 1990s, Congress cited a figure of 43 million Americans as having one or more physical or mental disabilities. This estimate has been revised to 56.7 million based on recent census data (2010).[1] These numbers are broad estimates. It is clear, however, that the number of people who have disabilities in the American population is large and is growing significantly with the “graying of America.”

Urban areas in the U.S. have a higher concentration of people with disabilities than rural areas.  For example in Baltimore, Maryland, 19.8% of the population (111,950 our of 566,090) is disabled[2] and New York City reports that 11% of its population (889,219 our of 8.1 million people) is made up of people with disabilities.[3]

The incidence of disability rises sharply as individuals reach their sixth and seventh decade of life. The life expectancy of an infant born in America today is approximately 75 years, and by the time that infant reaches the age of 75 that horizon of longevity may well have been pushed back. Advances in medical practice such as the development of trauma care centers and treatment of life threatening diseases tend to increase rather than decrease incidence of disability among younger persons.

Just as aging Baby Boomers are re-defining of what it means to be middle aged or older — with all of the implications that flow from such a redefinition — the disability rights movement and its supporters are advancing a redefinition of what it means to be disabled in this society in the 21st Century.

[1] Brault, Matthew W., “Americans With Disabilities: 2010,” Current Population Reports, P70-131, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2012.

[3] Center for Independence of the Disabled.  2010. Disability Matters:  Unequal Treatment and the Status of People with Disabilities in New York City and New York State. and

accessed on August 27, 2013.



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