Disability in USA


The World Report on Disability estimates that 15 percent of the world population are people with disabilities. There may be some variance from one country to another. But experts believe that many countries significantly underestimate the actual prevalence rate.

Disability in United States.

The center of the USA flag is displayed, which includes red and white stripes and white stars over a blue background. The country outline of the USA is shown in the background.


A cascading timeline reads:

1980 The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is passed. Section 504 in this law requires government-funded programs to be accessible for people with disabilities.

1975 The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) is enacted to protect the rights of infants, toddlers, children, and youth to have their educational needs met. This law was renamed and amended in 1997 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

1977 Disability community members, disappointed at the lack of enforcement for Section 504, lead a 28 day “sit-in” strike in government offices demanding written regulations that specify how Section 504 should be implemented. As a result, the government agreed.

1990 The government passes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

1990 – 2008 A series of court decisions restricts the number of workers whose rights can be protected under the ADA. The government passes the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 to reverse these court decisions, to clarify who is intended to be covered under the ADA.

2009 President Barack Obama signs the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on behalf of the United States.

2012 The U.S. Senate fails to ratify the CRPD on behalf of the United States.


20% of the population is disabled (nearly 57 million people).

Disability Type.

A pie chart displays percentages of disability types represented in the disabled population.

Difficulty walking 40%.

Difficulty using stairs 38%.

Use a wheelchair 5%.

Use a cane/crutches/walker 15%.

Difficulty lifting 30%.

Difficulty grasping 13%.

Mental disabilities 36%.

Learning disability 10%.

Alzheimer’s, senility, or dementia 2.5%.

Intellectual disability 3%.

Other developmental disability 2%.

Other mental/emotional condition 13%.

Depressed or anxious 19%.

Trouble getting along with others 7%.

Trouble concentrating 12%.

Trouble coping with stress 15%.

Difficulty seeing 14%.

Difficulty hearing 11%.

Difficulty speaking 6%.


A bar graph shows age group percentages of the disabled population:

  • Among children aged 6 and older, 4.4% need personal assistance.
  • Among youth aged 15 and older, 21% have a disability.
  • Among adults aged 21 to 64, 17% have a disability.
  • Among adults aged 65 and older, 50% have a disability.


  • Among 68 million students ages 6 to 21 in the United States, about 5.7 million (8.4%) received special education services under IDEA in 2012.
  • A total of 6.4 million youth ages 3 to 21 received special education services under IDEA in 2012
  • Among students ages 6 to 21 receiving special education services, 40% have specific learning disability, 18% have speech or language impairment, 7% have intellectual disability, 6% have emotional disturbance, 2% have multiple disabilities, 1% are deaf or hard of hearing, 1% have orthopedic impairments, 13% have other health impairments, 0.4% have visual impairments, 8% are autistic, 0.02% are deaf-blind, 0.4% have traumatic brain injury, 2% have developmental delay.


  • 34% of the disabled population aged 18 to 64 (7 million people) were employed in 2013.
  • 74% of non-disabled people aged 18 to 64 (130 million people) were employed in 2013.


  • Among 21 million people with disabilities aged 18 to 64 living in the community, nearly 30% (almost 6 million people) were living in poverty in 2013.
  • Among 173 million non-disabled Americans aged 18 to 64 living in the community, nearly 14% (23.6 million people) were living in poverty in 2013.