Disabilities, as the literal definition describes them, greatly affect the lives of millions of people around the world. If not managed properly, they can lead to lower living standards both for those directly affected and the people around them. No matter what form disabilities take - physical or mental, affecting mobility, hearing, vision, or cognition - they often create a gap between people and the potential they possess.
But what exactly are the numbers, facts, and figures when it comes to disabilities?
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most important disability statistics in the United States and across the world to give you an insight into how disabilities really affect people and their livelihoods.
- Over a billion people globally live with some form of disability.
- 21.7% of adults aged 75 years and older are living with a hearing disability.
- About 7 billion people in the world will likely experience some form of disability ─ temporary or permanent ─ at some point in life.
- Nearly 400,000 children in the US aged five to 15 have a disability that impairs their vision.
- The poverty rate for people living with disability is 25.9%.
- The percentage of those aged 21 to 64 years with a cognitive disability is 4.4%.
1) 21.7% of adults aged 75 years and older are living with a hearing disability.
As of 2018, around 21.7% of adults of the age 75 and above had a disability affecting their hearing. The statistical report also showed that the lower the age bracket went on the survey the lesser the percentage of people affected. Hearing impairments were evident in just 0.5% of individuals under the age of five, 0.6% of individuals between the ages of five and 15, and 0.6% of people aged 16 to 20.
Additionally, 2% of adults aged 21 to 64 and about 8.9% of adults between 65 and 74 years were reported to have hearing disabilities.
2) According to US disability statistics, nearly 400,000 children aged five to 15 have a disability that impairs their vision.
About 381,700 children in the United States between the ages of five and 15 had a visual disability in 2018. This number comprises children who were blind or had serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses.
This was the fourth-largest age demographic for people with visual disabilities. Of those aged 21 to 64, 3,698,900 individuals were living with a visual impairment, the most of any age group.
3) In 2018, 45.4% of individuals in the United States who were employed had a visual disability.
According to a 2018 report on employed people living with disabilities in the US, visual disability rates are surprisingly high. According to the report, 45.4% of employed people were legally blind or had major difficulties seeing despite wearing glasses or some kind of visual aids. It’s worth noting that not all of those people would be legally recognized as having a disability.
4) The poverty rate for people living with disability is 25.9%.
Based on a survey conducted between 2008 and 2019 involving respondents aged from 18 to 64, the estimated poverty rate for people living with a disability in the United States in 2019 was 25.9%. The previous year, that same rate was 26.9%.
In contrast to these disability facts, just 11.4% of people without disabilities were living in poverty in 2019.
5) In 2018, the percentage of those aged 21 to 64 years with a cognitive disability was 4.4%.
The share of people in the United States who were aged 21 to 64 years and lived with a cognitive disability of some form - including dementia, autism, or Down syndrome - was 4.4% in 2018.
Of all age groups, those 75 years and older had the highest share of people with cognitive disabilities: 13.1%.
Disability Statistics by State
6) At 19.8%, West Virginia was the state with the highest disability rate in 2019.
In 2019, West Virginia had the highest disability rate in the United States. The US had a disability rate of 12.7% across its entire population, while 19.8% of those living in West Virginia had a disability.
Kentucky and Arkansas were the second and third states in this regard, with 17.8% and 17.5% of their population respectively living with disabilities.
7) In 2019, 3.8% of the South Dakota population was living with a cognitive disability, the lowest disability rate by state in the US.
In 2019, an estimated 3.8% of the population in South Dakota was living with cognitive disabilities. The same percentage was also recorded in North Dakota, making these the two states with the lowest proportion of people with cognitive disabilities in the United States during that period.
West Virginia had the highest rate of cognitive disability, with 7.6% of its population living with some form of cognitive disability.
8) According to statistics on disability from 2019, Utah had the lowest share of vision disability rates by state in the US: 1.4%.
Just 1.4% of the Utah population were living with a disability that affected their vision in 2019, the lowest rate for any state in the US. On the other hand, West Virginia once again had the highest, with 4%.
9) The percentage of people with a hearing disability by state was the highest in West Virginia: 6.6% of the population.
Disability stats show that in yet another area, West Virginia is the state with the highest share of people living with disabilities. In this case, research shows that 6.6% of the West Virginia population had a hearing disability in 2019, significantly more than any other state.
The next state on the list was Maine, where 5.4% of the population were living with a hearing disability in 2019. The state or district with the lowest rate of hearing disabilities was the District of Columbia, with just 1.9% of its population living with such a disability.
Disability Statistics Worldwide
10) Over a billion people globally live with some form of disability.
As of December 2020, there were more than a billion people in the world who lived with one form of disability or the other. This represents about 15% of the global population.
Of those people, an estimated 190 million people aged 15 or over live with significant difficulties in day-to-day functionality, and thus require healthcare services. These sobering statistics show how important it is that society looks after its most vulnerable members.
11) Continuing disability review statistics show that the number of aged people with disabilities is steadily rising, as the aged population is expected to grow by 56% from 2015 to 2030.
Between 2015 and 2030, the number of people in the world who are aged 60 years and above is expected to grow by 56%, from 901 million to 1.4 billion. By 2050, the global population of older people is projected to reach nearly 2.1 billion. This will in turn increase the number of people with disabilities, as elderly people are more likely to have disabilities.
This increase could also be attributed to a rise in chronic health problems. Stats on disability show that beyond demographic trends being responsible for the increase, there are various other causes depending on the disability in question.
12) About 7 billion people in the world will likely experience some form of disability ─ permanent or temporary ─ at some point in their life.
According to the World Health Organization, it’s likely that nearly everyone in the world will be affected by a disability of one kind or another, whether it be long-term or short-term, at some point during their life.
13) A study conducted over 43 countries found that 42% of people with disabilities perceive their health as poor, and as a result were disproportionately affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have to face the facts about disability discrimination; regarding health services in particular, disabled people were the most disadvantaged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Improper or incomplete data collection on disabilities by most countries in the world causes problems for disaggregation by disability. As a result, those countries weren’t able to effectively cater to disabled people in their COVID-19 responses.
People living with disabilities were exposed to increased risks during the pandemic’s peaks. These risks included contracting COVID-19, developing severe symptoms from infection, and dying from COVID-19 complications.
Statistics on disabilities suggest that these risks were exacerbated because there were no provisions made specifically for people living with disabilities. In countries where such provisions were made, they weren’t always adequate. Additionally, people with disabilities were reported to have had poorer health outcomes during the pandemic and after, regardless of their infection status.
14) The health services that exist for disabled people are either under-resourced or of poor quality, which is why those with disabilities are four times more likely to report bad treatment.
The WHO reports some disturbing facts about disability in relation to health services, as disabled people are faced with many barriers that stop them accessing the health services they need.
Statistically, disabled people are also more than twice as likely to find healthcare provider skills inadequate and three times more likely to report being denied care.
15) The WHO advocates for an upgrade of primary health care services for diabled people, who presently comprise 15% of the world’s population, in order to manage the increase in numbers and promote better quality of life.
The ever-increasing percentage of people with disabilities can be further managed with adequate access to effective health services and cross-sectorial public health interventions, as well as proper protection during health emergencies. Policies, legislation, financing, and the sensitization of law enforcement and emergency services can contribute positively to this.
With the increase in the number of people who are living with disabilities, the World Health Organization is pushing for healthcare services catering to disabled people to be significantly upscaled. This prevention-first approach to healthcare would improve long-term outcomes for everyone affected.
Disability Employment Statistics
16) The unemployment rate of people with a disability rose to 12.6% in 2020.
One of the many disasters of 2020 was that people who were living with disabilities lost big time in terms of jobs. The unemployment rate soared from an all-time low of 7.3% in 2019 to 12.6% thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
17) The median annual salary of people with disabilities was $40,360 in 2019.
In the US in 2019, disabled people earned much less than people without a disability; their median annual salary was about $40,360, less than in each of the previous four years. In comparison, the median annual salary of people without disabilities was $48,406.
Disability Statistics by County
18) In 2019, the county with the highest percentage of people with disabilities in Alabama was Lowndes, with 26.8%.
Lowndes was the county with the highest percentage of people living with disabilities in Alabama in 2019, with more than a quarter (26.8%) of its population affected. On the other hand, the county with the smallest percentage was Shelby with 11.3%.
19) New York’s Hamilton was the county with the most disabled people in the state in 2019, with 27.7%.
Hamilton (27.7%) was the New York county with the highest percentage of people with disabilities in 2019. The county with the lowest percentage of people with disabilities was Nassau (8.4%).
Disability statistics show just how diverse the disabilities that affect the global community are. Considering how much the numbers seem to be increasing, more scrutiny is required to ensure that where disabilities do exist, there are countermeasures to preserve the quality of life for those affected. It’s also evident that, either through personal or shared experiences, it is almost impossible for anyone in today’s world not to have any interaction with disabilities.