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Because there are different definitions of “disability,” there are also different estimates of the number of disabled people. In the United States, according to the Congressional Committee findings for the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), 43 million citizens out of the total population of about 250 million are disabled. This is about 17%, or about one in five Americans who have some type of disability. Disabled people are the largest minority group in the United States.
The rate of disabilities varies with age. One-third of disabled Americans are age 65 or older. Among those with disabilities, only 15% are born with their disability.
The Congressional Committee findings for the ADA found that people with disabilities as a group are the poorest and least educated of all minority groups. Over 20 percent of the disabled of working age live in poverty, which is over twice the national rate. About 40% of people with disabilities, two in five, did not finish high school.
People with disabilities often encounter job discrimination. Two-thirds of people with disabilities who are of working age are not working, according to a Lou Harris poll. This high unemployment rate is not because people with disabilities don’t want to work; two-thirds of those not presently working do want to work.
Although employers of handicapped people may fear more expensive insurance premiums and costly worksite modifications required by ADA, these fears are usually unfounded. Disabled workers perform as well or better than their able-bodied co-workers. In general, people with disabilities have above average work attendance and productivity.