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People with Disabilities

People with Disabilities are America’s largest minority population, as well as the only minority anyone can become a member of at any time. On a global scale, people with disabilities represent a market that is equivalent to the size of China. Despite the efforts made in the area of disability rights over the past twenty-five years, most people with disabilities remain under-employed, poor, and under-educated due to a lack of equal opportunities. People with disabilities are a highly-diverse population made up of people from every ethnicity, age group, race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

Education and Disability

The autumn of 2008 found approximately 95% of students with disabilities between the ages of 6 and 21 years of age attending public schools. Around 3% of students with disabilities attended another school; 1% attended a private school. Less than 1% of students with disabilities in this age group were in a hospital, correctional facility, remained at home, or were in a separate facility. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that children between the ages of 3 and 21 with disabilities receive an appropriate and free public school education.

Work and Disability

The United States Department of Education states that workers with disabilities consistently rated either average or above average in the quality, performance, quantity of work, flexibility, and attendance of the jobs they held. In January of 2011, the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force was 20.1%, whereas the percentage of nondisabled persons in the labor force was 69.5%. The same month the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 13.6%, while for nondisabled persons it was 9.7%.

American workers tend to underestimate their risk of experiencing a form of disability. For example; in 2011 64% of workers believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for three or more months during their working career – the actual odds for a worker today are around 30%. The majority of Americans believe their personal chances of experiencing a form of long-term disability are much lower than the average worker’s. The leading causes of disability include:

  • Injuries and Poisoning
  • Nervous System-Related disorders
  • Cardiovascular/circulatory disorders
  • Musculoskeletal/connective tissue disorders
  • Cancer – the second leading cause of new disability

Almost 95% of disabilities are caused by types of illnesses, rather than accidents, yet 60% of Americans do not have any savings in preparation for illness or disability. A large number of Americans, 71%, would find it hard to pay bills and other financial obligations if their paycheck was delayed for a week. Approximately 65% of workers in America would not be able to pay their regular living expenses for a year if their source of employment income was lost. Around 38% would not be able to pay their bills for greater than a three month period of time.

The vast majority of workers believe people should plan in their 20’s or 30’s for the potential loss of income due to disability. Yet only half of workers actually do plan for this possibility. Less than half of workers in America even bother to discuss disability planning.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) denied 65% of claim applications in the year 2009. The average monthly benefit paid through the SSDI program is $1,065 per month. Around 8% of people on SSDI receive less than $500 per month. Almost everyone on the SSDI program receives less than $2,000 per month (97%). In 2010, 40.2% of men with disabilities and 63.9% of women with disabilities received less than $1,000 a month on SSDI.


America is struggling with the impact of war as soldiers fight in combat in more than one nation in a global war on terrorism. According to the government, between October of 2001 and February of 2008, greater than 30,000 veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and surrounding duty stations became wounded in action. A number of these veterans lost a limb or hand, or were blinded or severely burned. Other veterans were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other service-connected disabilities. Many of these veterans who have left active duty are able to work. Veterans who come home wounded or disabled from war deserve the attention and care of a grateful nation.

The year 2009 found 21.9 million Veterans in the United States of America, to include Veterans from the following groups:

  • 1.5 million Female Veterans
  • 2.3 million Black Veterans
  • 1.1 million Hispanic Veterans
  • 258,000 Asian Veterans
  • 153,000 American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans
  • 30,000 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Veterans

The same year found 9 million veterans in America who were older than 65, and 1.7 million who were younger than 35. There were 7.6 million Vietnam-era veterans in America in 2009; 35% of all living veterans served between the years 1964 and 1975. The Gulf War - 4.5 million Americans, while 2.3 million veterans served during World War II. The Korean War - 2.7 million veterans who served between 1950 and 1953. During peacetime, 5.6 million Americans served the nation.

America has a number of veterans who have served in more than one conflict. For example; in the year 2009 there were 47,000 veterans who served during Vietnam and the Gulf War. There were also 78,000 veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

  • 741,000 served during both Gulf War eras
  • 230,000 served during both Korea and Vietnam
  • 156,000 served during both World War II and Korea

Veterans and Homelessness

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has stated that America’s homeless veterans are mostly male, although around 5% of homeless veterans are female. Most homeless veterans are single and come from urban areas. Many experience a form of mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. Approximately one-third of the overall homeless adult population is veterans.

The Veterans Affairs specialized homeless programs served greater than 92,000 veterans in the year 2009. Unfortunately, there are still more than 100,000 veterans who remain homeless every year and have to look for assistance from local government agencies and their own communities, as well as faith-based organizations. Veterans need coordinated efforts that provide them with secure housing, physical and mental health care, nutritional meals, substance abuse care, and personal development and empowerment. Veterans need job assessment, training, and job placement assistance.

"Congress acknowledged that the accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment." - William J. Brennan, Jr.

Image of Justin Dart and Friends

"Colleagues, I am the luckiest man in the world, because I am a member of the best movement in the world, with the best people in the world, you. Working with you keeps me alive. I love you so much. I am with you, always. Lead on! Together, we shall overcome." ~Justin Dart, April 17, 2001