2017 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium


Overview. Statistics are a powerful tool—in research, policymaking, program evaluation, and advocacy. They are used to frame the issues, monitor current circumstances and progress, judge the effectiveness of policies and programs, make projections about the future, and predict the costs of potential policy changes.

In the United States, statistics about the population with disabilities and about the government programs that serve people with disabilities—disability statistics—are often difficult to find. Numerous government agencies generate and publish disability statistics, and as a result, disability statistics are scattered and buried in documents and websites all across the federal government.

The Annual Disability Statistics Compendium and its compliment, the Annual Disability Statistics Supplement, are publications of statistics about people with disabilities and about the government programs which serve them. The Compendium and Supplement are designed to serve as a summary of government statistics. The Compendium, available both in hard copy and online (at www.disabilitycompendium.org) presents key overall statistics on topics including the prevalence of disability, employment among persons with disabilities, rates of participation in disability income and social insurance programs, as well as other statistics. The Annual Disability Statistics Supplement, only available online, presents tables with over 150 additional categorizations of data for each section highlighted in the Compendium.

New this year. There were several changes to the 2017 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium and Supplement. First, the Education section of the Compendium was expanded to include not only data on special education program participation and outcomes, but also statistics on educational attainment for all people with disabilities in the United States.

Second, the 2017 Compendium Health section now identifies persons with disabilities using a methodology consistent with U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Estimates for the Health section have always used Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) data. In previous years using this data, people were identified as having a disability if they reported having activity limitations due to physical, mental, or emotional problems or having used assistive technology due to health conditions. The 2016 BRFSS estimates used in the 2017 Compendium are now based on the six questions used to identify people with disabilities by the U.S. Census Bureau. A response of "yes" to any one of these six questions indicates that the person in question has a vision, hearing, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and/or independent living disability. As the method of identifying persons with disabilities has changed, interpreting any changes in particular Health section statistics from year to year should be done with caution.

Third, accessible versions in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) of the 2017 Compendium and 2017 Supplement are now available online at www.disabilitycompendium.org. In addition to providing accessible Portable Document Format (PDF) files for download there are also fully text-readable HTML file versions to remove as many barriers as possible for people with disabilities to access this material.

Additional Resources. A companion Annual Report is available, providing graphic representations of key findings and state differences. The Annual Report highlights state and trend data using maps related to specific tables in the Compendium and Supplement. The statistics presented here, as well as those in the Supplement and Annual Report, can be viewed and downloaded at www.disabilitycompendium.org. Help navigating any of the resources described here can be found at www.disabilitycompendium.org/help, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions section at www.disabilitycompendium.org/faq. Assistance in interpreting and locating additional statistics is available via our toll-free number, 866.538.9521, or by email, disability.statistics@unh.edu. For more information about our research projects, please visit www.researchondisability.org.

Suggested Citation. Lauer, E.A. & Houtenville, A.J., 2018. Annual Disability Statistics Compendium: 2017. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability.