Access to Disability Data

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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 1: Women and disability throughout the life cycle: Definitions and prevalence

First, this chartbook presents an overview of disability prevalence among women. Prevalence is the number of cases with a given attribute that are present during a particular interval of time, often expressed as a rate or percentage. Discussion of disability prevalence must be prefaced with a description of the major national surveys and their disability definitions. Federal surveys, by sampling large numbers of people, make it possible to estimate the prevalence and describe certain characteristics of women with disabilities on a national, summary level. However, the questions asked on these surveys also limit the characteristics and experiences of women with disabilities that can be described.

The best national estimates of disability come from the Survey of Income Participation (SIPP) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), including the NHIS Survey on Disability (NHIS-D). Each survey defines disability somewhat differently and the surveys all tend to under-report stigmatized conditions such as mental illness. Section 1 opens with a description of the disability definitions used in these surveys, and presents recent estimates of how many women and men have disabilities.

Section 1 also introduces information on the causes of disability for women and men, respectively. The impact of demographic factors such as age and ethnicity on women's disabilities are also discussed in this section.

Topic Questions:

1.1. How many women and men have a disability?

1.2. How does activity limitation differ by gender?

1.3. Are the activity limitations of women and men caused by different conditions?

1.4. What are the threats to health and safety for females, compared to males?

1.5. Do women's disability rates differ by race and ethnicity?