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Chartbook on Mental Health and Disability

Susan Stoddard
Lita Jans
Joan M. Ripple
Lewis Kraus

2560 Ninth Street, Suite 320
Berkeley, CA 94710

Prepared for:
U. S. Department of Education
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Washington, D.C.

Foreword | Acknowledgements | Preface | Introduction


The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) is pleased to publish this chartbook on work and disability, a product of the InfoUse Center on Improving Access to Disability Data funded by NIDRR. NIDRR's mission is to support research to maximize the full inclusion and integration of people with disabilities into society, employment, and independent living. As part of that mission, NIDRR takes a leadership role in improving federal data on disability. This chartbook, available in print format and on the World Wide Web, represents one of the many ways that NIDRR makes information on disability more accessible and available to people who need it, including people with disabilities, policymakers, advocates, planners, researchers, vocational and rehabilitation personnel, media representatives and the public in general.

We are at a signal juncture in collecting, analyzing, and distributing data that helps to formulate effective and responsible policies. The topic of this chartbook, work and disability, is especially important. Employment is a major issue for people with disabilities and requires thorough investigation within the context of the role of accomodation, accessibility, and legal mandates. The study of disability and work is dependent on the variables we identify and the questions we ask. Surveys often ignore the complexity of the person's interaction with his or her environment. The environment plays a key role in how a person with physical, mental or emotional difficulties can live out his or her capabilities.

The continued lack of solid national data on the employment status of people with disabilities makes it difficult to assess the numbers of people working at different types of jobs, in different social settings, with different degrees of disability, and with different types of accomodation. Given the importance of the employment issue, it is critical to make the best use of existing data, as we work to improve our measures and our information resources. This chartbook on work and disability makes an important contribution in presenting the current state of information on work and disability in an accessible, easy to read format, useable by people with a range of educational levels and technical skills, sensory disabilities, languages, and cognitive disabilities. We believe this chartbook will be a useful resource for anyone needing information about people with disabilities and work. Questions addressed here will stimulate new findings as data from the Disability Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey becomes widely available for analysis.

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


The Chartbook on Work and Disability in the United States relies on published data from several federal agencies and organizations. We are very grateful to all of the people and agencies who are responsible for collecting, maintaining and analyzing these data. The following people very graciously assisted us by providing their most current information and reviewing our text and graphics:

  • Bill Barron, Deputy Director, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Barbara Bordelon, U. S. General Accounting Office
  • Janice Devine, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Rick Douglas, U. S. Department of Labor
  • Brett Fallvollita, U. S. General Accounting Office
  • Robert Ferguson, Social Security Administration
  • Harvey Hamel, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Jeff Kellar, Senior Economist, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Mitchell P. LaPlante, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics
  • Jack McNeil, Bureau of the Census
  • Jane L. Ross, Director, U. S. General Accounting Office
  • Zanne Tillman, Rehabilitation Services Administration
  • Laura Trupin, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics
  • Peter Wheeler, Social Security Administration
  • Edward Yelin, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics

We also thank Sean Sweeney and David Keer, NIDRR Project Officers, who provided statistical materials and advice.

This chartbook is a product of the InfoUse Center on Improving Access to Disability Data, a program supported by a grant by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (H133D50017-96). This is one of a series of products and activities intended to make information on disability and on disability statistics available to wider audiences.


The Chartbook on Work and Disability in the United States, 1998, is a reference on work and disability in the United States population, created for use by both nontechnical and technical audiences. The book is a resource for agencies, employers, organizations, policymakers, researchers and others concerned with the relationship between disability and work.

Each section addresses an aspect of work and disability. Each page within the section 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; in many cases, we also include information on relevant URLs on the World Wide Web where more detailed information may be stored. The surveys, shown in boldface and color when mentioned in the text, have a technical summary which 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


The relationship between disability and work is vital in today's policy environment. People with disabilities often encounter barriers to their entry into the work force and lack of accommodations on the job; many have difficulty obtaining appropriate training, education and job skills. These in turn contribute to low income levels, low labor force participation rates, and high levels of reliance on public benefits. At present funding levels, our public eligibility and entitlement programs cannot keep pace with the resulting demand for benefits. This chartbook provides information on key issues related to work and disability, contributing to the understanding of current employment issues faced by people with disabilities.

The Chartbook on Work and Disability in the United States includes national surveys such as the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the Current Population Survey (CPS), the decennial Census, and the Annual Survey of Occupational Illnesses and Injuries (ASOII). In addition, other analyses by federal agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Social Security Administration, the Rehabilitation Services Administration and others will be summarized.

The chartbook is organized in four major sections:

Section 1 defines the terms used in our major national surveys that provide information on disability and work. Each major survey uses different definitions, and provides a different view of disability and work. Given that no one survey can provide a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between work and disability, we introduce several key information sources.

Section 2 addresses labor force participation of people with disability. The section examines patterns of occupation and work, and rates of employment of people with disabilities.

Section 3 examines major factors of work disability, including earnings, race, existence of chronic conditions, gender, and age.

Section 4 reviews a number of work-related resources available to people with disabilities, including Social Security disability benefits and Vocational Rehabilitation services.