Saturday, November 22, 2014
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Disability Facts & Statistics

According to the 2004 National Organization on Disability/Harris Survey of Americans with Disabilities:

  • Only 35 percent of people with disabilities report being employed full or part time, compared to 78 percent of those who do not have disabilities.
  • Three times as many live in poverty with annual household incomes below $15,000 (26 percent versus 9 percent).
  • People with disabilities remain twice as likely to drop out of high school (21percent versus 10 percent).
  • They are twice as likely to have inadequate transportation (31 percent versus 13 percent), and a much higher percentage go without needed health care (18 percent versus 7 percent).

The HHS/CMS Minimum Data Set Q1 numbers for June 30, 2004 reports the following:

  • One in five nursing home residents wishes to return to the community -- in June 2004, that was 20,953 people in New York State.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • About 54 million Americans -- approximately 1 in 5 -- report that they have some kind of disability and 26 million of them -- 1 in 10 -- say they have a severe disability. More than half the Americans with a severe disability were between ages 22 and 64.
  • 49.7 million people in the U.S. age 5 and over in the civilian noninstitutionalized population have at least one disability; this is a ratio of nearly 1-in-5 U.S. residents, or 19 percent.
  • By age and sex:
    • 7 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls ages 5 to 15 have disabilities.
    • 20 percent of men and 18 percent of women ages 16 to 64 have disabilities.
    • 43 percent of women and 40 percent of men 65 or older have disabilities.
  • 46% of people with disabilities report having more than one disability.
  • 12% of people age 18 to 34 enrolled in school have some form of disability.
  • 2.4 million veterans receive compensation for service-related disabilities. Of these vets, 440,000 served in World War II; 165,000 in Korea; 799,000 in Vietnam; and 419,000 in the Persian Gulf.
  • The 12 million people with disabilities who work full-time earn less on average than their colleagues without disabilities: median 1999 income of $28,803 vs. $33,970, respectively.
  • About 9 million people age 15 and over had disabilities so severe that they required personal assistance to carry out everyday activities; slightly more than 4 million of these persons were under age 65. About 80 percent of the people who took on the role of primary helper were relatives and nearly half of these primary helpers lived with the disabled person.
  • In 2000, there were:
    • 9.3 million people age 5 or older with a sensory disability involving sight or hearing. This group accounts for 3.6 percent of the total population age 5 or over.
    • 21.2 million people age 5 or older with a condition limiting basic physical activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting or carrying. This group accounts for 8.2 percent of the total population age 5 or older.
    • 12.4 million people age 5 or older with a physical, mental or emotional condition causing difficulty in learning, remembering or concentrating. This group accounts for 4.8 percent of the total population age 5 or older.
    • 6.8 million people age 5 or older who have a physical, mental or emotional condition causing difficulty in dressing, bathing or getting around inside the home. This group accounts for 2.6 percent of the total population age 5 or older.
    • 8.2 million people age 16 or older who have a condition that makes it difficult to go outside the home to shop or visit a doctor. This group accounts for 8.6 percent of people who are of this age.
    • 21.3 million people ages 16 to 64 who have a condition that affects their ability to work at a job or business. They account for 11.9 percent of the people in this age group.

Fact Sheet

Tips for Communicating With and About People with Disabilities

The Basics

According to the U.S. Census, one in five people in this country have at least one disability that interferes with activities of daily living. Because disabilities take a variety of forms and arise from a range of causes -- accident, illness, genetic condition, or aging-related changes -- the majority of us will experience a temporary or permanent disability at some stage of life. Disability is simply part of the human condition. In other words, it's perfectly normal.

When meeting or interviewing a person with a disability, keep the following guidelines in mind:

Speak directly to the person

The first thing to remember is that the person you're being introduced to or interviewing is no different than you in that he or she wants to be spoken to directly and with the same respect you'd show anyone else. If the person is blind, introduce yourself and others who are with you, and -- just as you would on a teleconference -- identify whom you're addressing when conversing. (By the way, don't worry about saying things like "See you later" to a person who is blind or "Gotta run" to a person in a wheelchair. These are stock phrases -- the person you re talking to probably says them, too. And hey, it's not like they don t know they re blind or in a wheelchair.)

Offer to shake hands

Don't assume that people with partial limbs or conditions that impact their ability to move their hands or arms can't participate in some form of handshake. Hold out your hand and go with the flow.

Be sensitive about personal contact

A person's wheelchair or assistive technology is generally considered part of their personal space. Leaning on someone else's wheelchair at a cocktail party is considered bad etiquette (unless you've been invited to, of course). Do NOT pat an adult with a disability on the head.

Don't assume

People with disabilities are quite capable and creative. Don't make the assumption that someone can't participate in an activity just because of his or her disability. Always ask people themselves.

Ask before you help

People with disabilities have the best knowledge of what help they do and don't need. For example, many people with disabilities use their arms for balance. Even if you think you're helping when you take someone by the arm, you may instead be hindering them or throwing them off balance. If a person with a disability needs something, they'll let you know -- just as you would if you were in their position.

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Terminology Tips

Positive language empowers. When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important to put the person first.

With any disability, avoid negative, disempowering words, like "victim" or "sufferer." Say "person with AIDS" instead of "AIDS victim" or "person who suffers from AIDS." Group designations such as "the blind," "the retarded" or "the disabled" are inappropriate because they do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities.

Say "wheelchair user," rather than "confined to a wheelchair" or "wheelchair bound." The wheelchair is what enables the person to get around and participate in society -- it's liberating, not confining.

Words like "normal person" imply that the person with a disability isn't normal, whereas using a term like "person without a disability" is simply descriptive. Be aware that many people with disabilities dislike jargon such as "physically challenged" and "differently abled."

Many people who are Deaf communicate with sign language and consider themselves to be members of a cultural and linguistic minority group. They refer to themselves as Deaf with a capital "D," and may be offended by the term "hearing impaired." Others may not object to the term, but in general it is safest to refer to people who have hearing loss but who communicate in spoken language as "hard of hearing" and to people with profound hearing losses as Deaf or deaf.

The chart below shows examples of positive and negative phrases.

Affirmative Phrases Negative Phrases
person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability retarded; mentally defective
person who is blind, person who is visually impaired the blind
person with a disability the disabled; handicapped
person who is deaf the deaf; deaf and dumb
person who is hard of hearing suffers a hearing loss
person who has multiple sclerosis afflicted by MS
person with cerebral palsy CP victim
person with epilepsy, person with seizure disorder epileptic
person who uses a wheelchair confined or restricted to a wheelchair
person who has muscular dystrophy stricken by MD
person with a physical disability, physically disabled crippled; lame; deformed
unable to speak, uses synthetic speech dumb; mute
person with psychiatric disability crazy; nuts
person who is successful, productive has overcome his/her disability; is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)

The above information was drawn and adapted from information provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the United Spinal Association.

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Additional Resources

Other good resources on this topic include the following (please note that these links will open a new page in your browser):

Removing Bias in Language (APA Style Guidelines Regarding Disability Language)

Communicating With and About People with Disabilities (U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy)

Disability Etiquette (Judy Cohen, United Spinal Association)

Your Resource for Independent Living in Central New York


Social Enterprises

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