Disability In America

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People with disabilities constitute the nation’s largest minority group, and the only group any of us can become a member of at any time. Let’s learn more about Americans suffering physical, emotional and mental disabilities.

50 million
Americans with disabilities
38 million
38 million
Population of California
3 million
Americans with doctorates
About 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.
Of the 69.6 million American families, more than 20 million have at least one family member with a disability.
Your chance of becoming disabled before you retire

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A Closer Look: The Disabled Population

Children 5 to 17 who have disabilities 5%
Adults 18 to 64 who have disabilities 10%
Adults 65 and older who have disabilities 38%
Females with disabilities 12.4%
Males with disabilities 11.7%

People 6 and older who need help with everyday activities 11 million
People 15 and older who use a wheelchair 3.3 million
People who use a walking aid, such as a cane, crutches or walker 10 million
People 15 and older who report being unable to see printed words 1.8 million
People 15 and older who report being unable to hear conversations 1 million
People 15 and older who have difficulty having their speech understood 2.5 million

Most Common Disabilities

While some disabilities are common for children, others appear later in life.
Most common disability by age group (rate per 1,000 in age range):
Disability > 5 years 5–11 12–17
Speech problem 10.7 18.5 4.6
Asthma or breathing problem 8.2 8.4 8.3
Mental retardation or other development problem 7.0 10.2 9.6
Other mental, emotional or behavioral problem 2.7 12.0 14.2
Attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder 2.1 17.6 21.8
Learning disability 2.9 23.3 33.9
Disability 18–44 45–54 55–64
Mental illness 12.9 23.1 24.1
Fractures or joint injury 7.0 15.5 20.6
Lung 5.0 12.6 25.6
Diabetes 2.5 13.4 33.4
Heart or other circulatory 5.9 28.4 74.3
Arthritis or other musculoskeletal 22.2 61.9 100.7
Disability 65–74 75–84 85+
Senility (dementia) 6.8 30.5 96.1
Lung 34.7 41.4 44.4
Diabetes 41.1 49.4 38.4
Vision 18.2 44.3 96.6
Hearing 10.0 27.8 84.9
Heart or other circulatory 101.9 162.6 223.5
Arthritis or other musculoskeletal 125.8 171.0 267.6

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Disability — Not Inability

Disabilities haven’t stopped these trailblazers from making an impact on life here and around the world.
Franklin Roosevelt
Paralyzed from the waist down after having polio as a child
Stephen Hawking
Suffers from motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Harriet Tubman
Suffered vision impairment and seizures after a severe wound to the head inflicted by a slave owner before her escape
Ludwig van Beethoven
Deaf for the final 25 years of his life
Helen Keller
First deaf and blind person to graduate from college
Albert Einstein
Severely dyslexic and most likely had autism