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Chartbook on Disability in the U.S.

Lewis E. Kraus
Susan Stoddard, Ph.D.
David Gilmartin

2560 Ninth Street, Suite 320
Berkeley, CA 94710

Prepared for:
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
U.S. Department of Education
Washington, DC
# H133D50017

Foreword | Preface | Acknowledgements | Introduction


Our statutory charge at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) is to support research in order to maximize the self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities of all ages. NIDRR has a leadership role in improving federal disability data, and in making the data more available.

Demographic data and statistical information on disability contribute to the understanding of the scope of disability issues in the United States, developing disability policy, and planning, conducting, and evaluating services for individuals with disabilities. But the variety of statutory authorities for the collection of public data sets, and an inconsistently applied definition of disability have resulted in fragmented, incomplete, and inconsistent data sets about individuals with disabilities.

Legislators, policymakers, service providers, the press, manufacturers, retailers, and advocates require information on the incidence and prevalence of disability conditions, the distribution of disability conditions among the population, and the characteristics of individuals with disabilities.

To address the need for better use of disability statistics, NIDRR has identified the need for presentation of data in meaningful, understandable, and accessible formats usable by persons with a range of educational levels and technical skills, sensory disabilities, languages, and cognitive disabilities.

This Chartbook on Disability in the United States, 1996, a product of NIDRR's new Center on Improving Access to Disability Data at InfoUse, is designed to provide current data in answer to many frequently asked questions about disability. The Chartbook is also available in print from InfoUse.

Katherine D. Seelman, Ph.D., Director
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


The Chartbook on Disability in the United States, 1996, is a reference on disability in the U.S. population. We have created it for use by nontechnical and technical audiences alike. The book is a resource for agencies, organiza-tions, employers, researchers, and others needing to know about those people in the population who have a disability.

Each page contains a topic question, explanatory text on the topic, and an explanatory graphic (or table) that provides data in an easy-to-read form. The source of the information and the survey used to collect the data appear at the bottom of the page. The surveys have a technical summary located in the appendix. The key surveys, shown in boldface and color when mentioned in the text, have a technical summary that is located in the Appendix. In the text, key terms are also shown in boldface and color and are defined in the Glossary.

How To Use This Site - Graphic


This chartbook on Disability, 1996 relies on the published data from several federal agencies and organizations. We are very thankful to all the people and agencies who have collected, maintained, and analyzed this data. The following people were very gracious and helpful by providing their most current information to us and reviewing our text and graphics:

  • Jack McNeil, Bureau of the Census
  • Gerry Hendershot, National Center for Health Statistics
  • Gary Collins, National Center for Health Statistics
  • Karen Bourdon, National Institute for Mental Health
  • Cille Kennedy, National Institute for Mental Health
  • Daryl Regier, National Institute for Mental Health
  • Dora Teimouri, Rehabilitation Services Administration
  • Laura Trupin, Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics
  • Mitchell LaPlante, Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics
  • K. Charles Lakin, University of Minnesota Research and Training Center on Community Living

Julia Bradsher identified statistical sources and contributed to the development of the chartbook. Sean Sweeney, NIDRR Project Officer, has provided statistical materials and advice. This Chartbook is one product of the InfoUse Center on "Improving Access to Disability Data," a grant supported by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. This is one of a series of products and activities intended to make information on disability and on disability statistics available to wider audiences.


This 1996 edition of the Chartbook updates basic and current disability statistics. The presentation is nontechnical and meant for people who are interested in data on disability in the United States, but who are not familiar with the statistical sources. The document is intended for distribution in print and on the "Web."

This book's approach uses the most generalizable data possible from national survey and program data. These data are considered by experts to provide the best estimates of disability nationally.

In the Chartbook, we report analyses from more than one survey, since surveys use different definitions of disability. All charts are prepared from published tables and documents. Each term which is uniquely defined by the surveys is bold-faced on the page and is defined in the Glossary. Each page notes the survey and source of analysis. A Bibliography provides references for the sources consulted. Detailed information covering technical issues of each survey is provided in the Appendix.

Section 1 provides estimates of people with disabilities in the United States.

Section 2 reviews the data on characteristics (age, sex, race, ethnicity, income, education, geographic location) of people with disabilities as reported by national surveys.

Causes of disabilities, and medical costs, are covered in Section 3.

Section 4 examines aspects of two particularly important disability populations, the elderly and children.

Finally, work disability is reviewed in Section 5.