Fast Facts: Disabilities

Living with A Disability
People who are considered to have a disability have a limited ability to perform one or more major life activity due to a physical or mental impairment. While the greatest barriers faced by people with disabilities may be performing that activity, negative attitudes and stereotypes often prove to be challenging obstacles, and may be far more difficult to overcome.

Living with Disability – An American Perspective
According to the 2010 Census[1]

  • Approximately 56.7 million people (18.7% of the U.S. population) have a disability
  • More than 38 million people (12.6%) have a severe disability,
  • More than 12 million people over age six (4.4%) need assistance with one or more activities of daily living.

The majority of people with disabilities face lifelong challenges with unequal educational and employment opportunities.[2] Reasons for unemployment are frequently based on social reasons, rather than one’s ability to perform the needed tasks.

  • Less than 20% of adults with a disability are employed,[3] while nearly 70% of people without a disability are employed[4]
  • The unemployment rate of people with disabilities is 12.9%, more than twice that of people without disabilities (6.1%)[5]
  • More than twice as many adults with severe disabilities live in poverty than adults with disabilities (10.8% v 3.8%).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA 1990) and the more recent ADA Amendments Act (2008) prohibit discrimination based on disability in employment issues and ensure equal access to government and commercial facilities, transportation services and public accommodations. This legislation is designed to accommodate and protect all people with disabilities.

Living with Disability – A Global Perspective
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international treaty recognizing the rights of people with disabilities passed by the United Nations in 2006. To date, more than 150 countries and regional organizations have signed the Convention, and more than 130 have ratified it.[6]

  • Over a billion people – 15% of the world’s population – have some form of disability.[7]
  • Only 45 countries have anti-discrimination policies and/or laws that protect the disabled.[8]
  • People with disabilities have more unmet health care needs because of a greater need for and less access to health care services.[9]


[1] Brault, M.W. Americans with Disabilities: 2010. US Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, July 2012., accessed July 15, 2014.

[2] Persons with Disabilities, moderated by UNICEF and International Disability Alliance. Global Thematic Consultation on Addressing Inequalities., accessed July 15, 2014.

[3] United States Department of Labor; Office of Disability Employment Policy., accessed July 15, 2014.



[6] Addressing Inequalities for People with Disabilties is Central to an Effective Post-2015 Agenda. The World We Want., accessed July 15, 2014.

[7] World Health Organization Fact Sheet, Disability and Health.,accessed July 15, 2014.

[8]  United Nations Fact Sheet on Persons with Disabilities.,accessed July 15, 2014.

[9] World Health Organization Fact Sheet, Disability and Health.,accessed July 15, 2014.


Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.

Future Spotlight Topics:

August 2014 – Weight Bias

September 2014 – Suicide

October 2014 – Labels

November 2014 – Gender Identity

December 2014 – HIV/AIDS

January 2015 – Socio-Economic Status

February 2015 – Depression

March 2015 – Self-Injury

April 2015 – Sexual Assault

May 2015 – Food Restrictions

June 2015 – Skin Conditions

November 2015 – PTSD

December 2015 – Pay it Forward

January 2016 – Race

February 2016 – Eating Disorders

March 2016 – Learning Disabilities

April 2016 – Substance Abuse

May 2016 – Older People