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Report Number P70-107
Erika Steinmetz
Component ID: #ti63735561


The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) provides guidelines that assure the provision of services to peo­ple with disabilities and the protection of their legal rights. The ADA prohibits dis­crimination on the basis of disability in employment, access to public services, public accommodations, and commercial facilities, and it requires telephone com­panies to offer telephone relay service for individuals who use telecommunica­tion devices for the deaf (TTYs) or simi­lar devices.1 The ADA includes a legal definition of disability, in part defining a person with a disability as one who has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”2

Many groups, including government agencies, advocacy organizations, researchers, and the public at large, monitor the effectiveness of these laws, statutes, and programs. They seek to assess the equality of opportunity for people with and without disabilities in education, employment, and other forms of social participation. Since the various programs and laws focus on different groups of people, this report uses a vari­ety of definitions of disability.3

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) contains questions about the ability to perform a number of activities. If a person reports having dif­ficulty performing a specific activity, usu­ally a follow-up question determines whether or not the difficulty is severe. Responses to these and related ques­tions were used to arrive at two overall measures of disability status—nonsevere disability and severe disability—described in Figure 1. In the detailed tables and in the text, these activities are grouped to allow analysis of subsets of people with a disability.

The data in this report were collected from June through September 2002 in the fifth wave (interview) of the 2001 SIPP. The population represented (popu­lation universe) is the civilian noninstitu­tionalized population living in the United States.4 Thus, disabilities of the institu­tionalized population, such as those in nursing homes, are not reported.

1 The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a Web site devoted to information about the ADA at <>. “A Guide to Disability Rights Laws: 2002,” available at that Web site or at <>, describes the federal laws that specifically address the interests of people with disabilities.

2 See Public Law 101-336, available at <>.

3 This report is an update of a previous report—P70-73: Americans With Disabilities: 1997, which contained statistical analysis about individuals with disabilities.

4 The estimates in this report (which may be shown in text, figures, and tables) are based on responses from a sample of the population and may differ from the actual values because of sampling variability or other factors. As a result, apparent dif­ferences between the estimates for two or more groups may not be statistically significant. All com­parative statements have undergone statistical test­ing and are significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted.

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