44 Vital Disability Statistics & Facts to Keep in Mind

Disability Statistics

There are people living with disabilities who are part of our everyday lives. This might be you, or it could be a parent, child, friend, neighbor, or associate. 

Below, you can find current and vital disability statistics and facts that discuss disabilities, both in the US and around the globe. Becoming more educated means becoming more inclusive, more understanding. It also helps you have a clearer view of how our fellow citizens live, what their options are, and what kind of help they may need.

Key Disability Facts & Statistics to Be Aware of in 2020

  • In 2017, it has been reported that over 40 million people, 12.7% of the population, live with a disability in America.
  • The disability rate among both men and women in the US is pretty much the same, with 12.5% of men and 12.8% of women reporting a disability in 2017.
  • Around one billion people all around the world (15%) live with some sort of disability.
  • Annually, Social Security Disability Insurance costs around $144 billion, nearly 4% of the federal budget.
  • According to disability statistics, around 8% of people living with a disability in America are unemployed.
  • In developing countries, over 90% of disabled children don’t go to school.
  • Around 26% of disabled people in America live in poverty.
  • Over 2.3 million students have a learning disability in the US.
  • Over 90% of working-age disabled people in America have health insurance.
  • Stroke is one of the primary causes of long-term disabilities.

Disability Statistics in America

1. In 2017, it was reported that around 12.7% of people in the US suffer from a disability.


According to the data collected by the Institute on Disability, 40,678,654 people live with some kind of disability in America. This makes up 12.7% of the entire population.

2. More than 7.5 million Americans have a vision disability (18.5%).


The data has shown that 7,536,691 Americans live with a vision disability—although many valuable disability statistics from 2018 still need to be processed. Furthermore, the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of visually impaired people, being at 30.3%, while Maine has the lowest, at 11.8%.

3. Disability rates vary between different demographic groups: Native Americans have the highest numbers, followed by African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians.

(Cornell University)

According to the current disability statistics US researchers have gathered, Native Americans comprise 18.1% of all disabled people in America, followed by African Americans at 13.6%, Caucasians at 10.6%, Hispanics at 7%, 4.4% Asian, and 9.5% for other groups.

4. West Virginia has the highest rate of people living with disabilities (19% of its population), with Hawaii having the lowest (7.4%). 

(Cornell University)

As far as the disability statistics by state are concerned, West Virginia has the largest number of people living with disabilities, with 350,000 people. Hawaii, however, has the lowest number, at barely over 100,000.

5. Almost one million people in the United States have multiple sclerosis.

(National MS Society)

This is actually double what was determined in an earlier study, according to the current multiple sclerosis disability statistics. This may seem like grim news, but it’s actually a sign that our understanding of this disease is improving significantly.

6. The number of people suffering from a disability doesn’t vary much between genders, with 12.5% of men and 12.8% of women reporting a disability in 2017.

(Cornell University)

There’s a near-equal distribution of disability rates among genders in the United States. According to the disability statistics from 2017, 12.5% of men and 12.8% of women suffer from some kind of disability—a very small differential of 0.3%.

7. There are nearly 15.4 million individuals who live with cognitive disabilities in America.


 A 2018 report states that of the 40,675,305 individuals who are living with a disability, 15,378,144 (37.8%) live with a cognitive disability (note that the official US disability statistics from 2018 are not current). Of this number, the highest percentage of disabled people who are cognitively impaired (30.3%) can be found in the District of Columbia, while Maine has the lowest (11.8%).

8. Chronic conditions associated with disability are the most prevalent in the Southern United States. 


Chronic conditions and lifestyle factors that lead to disability are, according to current disability statistics, most often found in the South. These include conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular issues, which are associated with certain lifestyle factors like smoking, being overweight or obese, and hypertension. 

9. Older adults have a higher prevalence of mobility, hearing, and independent living disabilities, while cognitive disability is highest among middle-aged and young adults.


It may come as no surprise that CDC disability statistics show that older adults have issues with hearing and leading independent lives. Furthermore, they have the highest rate of mobility-related disabilities (26.1%). Many factors that simply come about with old age also lead to these problems. Young adults and middle-aged people have the highest levels of cognitive disability, at 10.6% and 11.9%, respectively.

Disability, Discrimination, and Employment

10. Around 8% of people living with disabilities in the United States are unemployed.


The relevant disability employment statistics currently indicate that of the entire population living with a disability in the United States, 8% is unemployed. This unemployment rate is twice that of the rate for the entire population, which is 3.7%.

11. There are around 2.3 million students diagnosed with a learning disability.


According to current learning disability statistics, there are around 2.3 million students in America that have one. Note, however, that this does not include cognitive or intellectual impairments. Rather, they include a separate set of disabilities and issues that make learning and reading more difficult.

12. Around 7.4% of all unemployed disabled people were actively looking for work in 2017.

(Cornell University)

Even though disabled people have more than twice the rate of unemployment in America, around 22,400 disabled people are looking for work.

13. More than a quarter (26%) of the people living with disabilities in the US live in poverty.


According to the current disability statistics, over a quarter of the people living with a disability live below the poverty line. While 11.1% of people between the ages of 18 and 64 can be classified as living in poverty, the rate for disabled people is more than twice that. The highest poverty rate in the States for people with disabilities can be found in Puerto Rico, at 51.6%, while the lowest can be found in Utah, at 16.8%. 

14. The disability discrimination statistics and research show that students with disabilities feel greater anxiety and fear about their own safety compared to students without disabilities.


According to a paper published in the Journal of Development and Physical Disabilities, students who have a disability report greater anxiety and fear. Most of the data points toward the significance of the abuse, where the paper reports “significantly higher rates” of perceived victimization faced by disabled students.

15. According to the 2018 Disability Statistics Annual Report, South Dakota employs the greatest portion of cognitively impaired individuals, at a 44.7% employment rate.


Only 27.8% of the 8,836,223 people living with cognitive disabilities in America are employed. Puerto Rico, however, has the lowest employment rate, at 15.5%. Meanwhile, South Dakota has the highest rate for its cognitively impaired population, being at 44.7%, according to the relevant disability employment statistics by state

16. Students with disabilities are common school bullying targets, as 35.3% of students with behavioral and emotional disorders, 33.9% of students with autism, and 19% with learning disabilities are bullied.

(National Bullying Prevention Center)

The data gathered by the bullying prevention center is rather unpleasant, but also clear. Roughly a third of all students with emotional and behavioral disorders, as well as students with autism, are being bullied at school. This also includes almost a fifth of all children who have learning disabilities.

17. The highest employment rate for people living with disabilities in America is among individuals with a hearing disability, being at 52.9%.


While the disability statistics for 2020 aren’t out yet, the highest rate of employment among people with disabilities centers on people with hearing disabilities, at 52.9%. As far as the States are concerned, North Dakota has the highest employment rate for deaf people, at 71.8%, while Puerto Rico has the lowest, at 27.5%.

Disability and Benefits

18. The highest annual earnings for people with disabilities are identified among individuals who suffer from a hearing disability ($48,500).

(Cornell University)

One of the less pleasant disability employment facts is that there is a gap between how much money people with disabilities earn. According to the data gathered by Cornell University, the highest annual average earnings for people with disabilities are noted in people who have a hearing disability. They make, on average, an annual $48,500. The lowest earnings are measured for people with cognitive disabilities, who make $35,400.

20. The relevant social security disability statistics show that around $144 billion is spent on annual benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance.


As far as social security disability benefits are concerned, around $144 billion from the budget goes toward Social Security Disability Insurance, which makes up around 4% of the federal budget. Roughly 10 million people use this money. 

19. More than 90% of working-age people in the US with disabilities have health insurance in some form.

(Cornell University)

Cornell University also compared these physical disability statistics to the percentage of people with health coverage who do not have a disability—87.6%. The lowest coverage goes to people with vision disabilities, at 87.5%, and the highest is for self-care disabilities, at 93.2%.

21. Rhode Island (25.9%), Massachusetts (25%), and Maine (24.6%) report the highest levels of persons with a disability who are receiving SSD.

(Cornell University Disability Statistics)

The relevant social security disability statistics by state show that Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine have the highest levels of people receiving disability benefits. The relevant data gathered by Cornell University shows that the lowest rates of people getting disability benefits can be found in Wyoming (10.1%), North Dakota (11.9%), and Utah (14%).

22. In 2016, almost 6 million people between the ages of 6 and 21 received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


The relevant disability statistics from 2016 show that 5,931,807 received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These services are represented by being inclusive and by catering and adapting educational programs to the needs and requirements of these students.

23. There are 1.3 million Americans living with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that makes you eligible for SSD benefits.


Current rheumatoid arthritis disability statistics show that there are over 1.3 million Americans who live with this disease. You should keep in mind that if you or someone close to you has rheumatoid arthritis, and if this disease significantly influences your ability to work, you will be eligible for SSD benefits.

Disability Statistics Worldwide

24. Around 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.


Over one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. Of these numbers, somewhere between 110 and 190 million adults live with a significant disability.

25. Disability is much more prevalent among people living in lower-income countries.


According to the data gathered by the World Health Organization, disability rates are much higher in low-income countries. The relevant intellectual disability statistics, facts, and current data points show disability rates being high in places that provide poor access to health care services. There are also more issues in places with aging populations and high rates of chronic health conditions. 

26. France, Germany, the Nordic countries, and Japan have some of the best disability benefits.

(The Guardian)

Disability statistics by country point toward Germany, the Nordic countries, France, and Japan as having high-quality disability benefits. For example, France offers the equivalent of roughly $1,300 per month just for a caregiver to help those who can’t work. Japan hands out benefits and gives out a great deal of discounts for public transportation and telecom fees. 

27. The prevalence of disability decreases as poverty rates improve.


While the 2019 Disability Statistics Annual Report is not out yet, the current data by the CDC is still valuable. Due to better healthcare, education, and treatment, disability rates become lower as economic factors improve. The CDC also states that disability prevalence is higher in adults with an income level below the federal poverty line.

28. In developing countries, around 90% of children with disabilities don’t go to school.


Unfortunately, the disability abuse statistics and facts gathered by UNESCO are clear—over 90% of children in developing countries with disabilities do not go to school. A 2004 British study also states that students with disabilities are more likely to become victims of violence and rape.

29. Almost a quarter (24.3%) of people living with disabilities smoke, nearly twice the number of smokers who do not have disabilities (13.5%), according to the relevant statistics on disability.


Many people living with a disability smoke. Unfortunately, smoking is one of the more important lifestyle factors that can lead to issues that cause disability. For example, the lack of mobility caused by stroke can be brought on by smoking. 

30. Stroke is one of the primary causes of long-term disability.


According to the relevant data and stroke disability statistics that have been gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is one of the leading causes of serious, long-term disability. It reduced mobility in more than half of the stroke survivors who are older than 65 years. On a yearly basis, 795,000 people have a stroke in the United States, of which, 140,000 die.


People with disabilities are here, and they are part of our lives. While the causes of disabilities are many, people living with certain sensory, cognitive, or physical disabilities are part of every layer and demographic of society, both in the US and worldwide.

However, they still suffer discrimination. The above data and disability statistics are pretty clear: Students living with a disability are more afraid for their safety at school. Children living with disabilities in developing countries miss out on school, and most of them aren’t even enrolled. Finally, in the US, employment rates for people living with disabilities are twice that of people without disabilities.


How many types of disabilities exist?

According to the American Community Survey, there are six types of disabilities:

  • hearing,
  • cognitive,
  • vision,
  • ambulatory,
  • self-care, and
  • independent living.

The first three disabilities do not need to be defined, as their name is clear enough.

An ambulatory disability means that a person has issues that essentially make walking an impractical or impossible means of transportation, necessitating the use of a wheelchair.

A self-care disability means that an individual—due to physical, emotional, or cognitive issues that last for more than six months—can’t complete daily tasks such as dressing and bathing oneself or getting around inside the home.

Finally, most facts about disability define an independent living disability as one in which a person has difficulty doing certain errands alone, such as shopping or visiting a doctor’s office.

How many Americans have a disability?

According to the American Community Survey, around 12.7% of people in America live with a disability. However, one needs to keep in mind that this number includes people with varying levels and types of disabilities, as well as the fact that disability levels vary greatly between states.

What percentage of the population has a disability?

According to data gathered by the World Bank and the World Health Organization, there are over one billion people around the globe that suffer from a disability. So, as far as knowing how many people are disabled, around 15% of the population has some sort of disability, with a higher prevalence found in developing countries.

Of the aforementioned global total, somewhere between 110 and 190 million people suffer from more severe disabilities.

How common are disabilities?

According to self-reported numbers, mobility (ambulatory) disabilities are the most common type (13%), followed by disabilities in cognition (10.6%), independent living disabilities (6.5%), vision disabilities (4.6%), and finally, self-care disabilities (3.6%).

Which country has the highest rate of disability?

While there isn’t any conclusive global data, as far as the European Union is concerned, Finland has the highest percentage of disabled individuals, with 32.2% of its population having some sort of disability.

What percent of people with disabilities are unemployed?

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities has fallen down from around 10% in 2017 to 8% in 2018. However, the fact that many people with disabilities are not able to work also needs to be taken into account. Furthermore, 31% of workers that have a disability are employed only part time, compared to the 17% of part-time employees that don’t have a disability.

How do you apply for disability?

When it comes to how to apply for disability, You can apply for benefits online by filling out the disability application form found on the Social Security Administration’s government website, or you can call the toll-free hotline (1-800-772-1213).

How much does disability pay?

The amount of money depends greatly on the individual receiving the money. The benefits can range from anywhere between $800 and $2,000 per month because it’s based on your salary or wages. It can be improved according to your cost of living, just like it can be impacted by taxes, other benefits, and earnings from work. You should expect your long-term disability plan to pay somewhere between 50% and 80% of your earnings.

What is considered to be a disability?

According to the Americans with Disability Act, any person who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities is a disabled person. Trying to define marginalized and disabled individuals is not easy, so there’s a host of disabilities that can prevent one from doing certain regular life activities completely. The same limitation can be caused by blindness, a spinal injury, or severe cognitive impairment.

What is a learning disability?

Learning disabilities represent a group of disorders that affect how we learn and study. A person with a learning disability has trouble reading, writing, listening, speaking, or even doing math.

Now, it needs to be pointed out that a learning disability is not a cognitive/intellectual disability. Nor is it a disability related to hearing loss, vision issues, autism, ADD, or a behavior or emotional disturbance.

Furthermore, there is no one specific learning disability. There are many types, like dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia. These can make reading, doing basic math, and writing more difficult.

How many hours can I work on disability?

While the Social Security Administration takes how many hours you work into consideration, it’s not the core factor that determines whether you get disability benefits or not. Namely, how much money you make per month is more important, as is whether your work constitutes “substantial gainful activity.”

You can essentially do around 10 hours per week, or up to 45 hours per month, and still be eligible. However, there are so many factors that this is more of a general guideline than any specific law or rule set in stone.

How many people are on disability?

According to the SSA report from 2018, there have been a total of 9,021,361 recipients of SSI benefits. Of the people with physical disabilities, 1,270,101 are under the age of 18, and 2,470,490 are older than 65, leaving 5,280,770 in the middle.

How many people are hearing impaired in the US?

There are 11,506,659 individuals living in the United States that have a hearing disability, which makes up 28.3% of all people living with disabilities in the country.

How many people are visually impaired in the US?

Of all the disabled people living in America, 18.5% has a vision disability—or 7,536,691 people.

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