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Report Number ACSBR/09-12
Matthew W. Brault


Many policies directed toward the population of people with disabilities have focused on expanding employment opportunities. Federal laws, like the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), have attempted to improve work-place conditions by encouraging reasonable accommodation and reducing job discrimination. Over the two decades since the ADA was signed, countless numbers of people with disabilities have credited the legislation with improving their lives.1 Despite the progress made, barriers still remain that limit full participation in the labor force.2

This report presents data on disability and employment among the population 16 to 64 years old to help assess the economic differences between people with and without disabilities in the 2008 and 2009 American Community Surveys (ACS). The data presented in this report are for the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which exclude people in prisons, nursing homes, and active duty military.


  • In 2009, 19.5 million people, or 9.9 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population aged 16 to 64, had a disability. Between 2008 and 2009, both the number and percent of people with disabilities did not change.
  • In 2009, West Virginia had the highest disability rate for people aged 16 to 64 years at 16.8 percent. Hawaii had the lowest rate, not statistically different from California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Utah.
  • About 34.7 percent of people with disabilities were employed compared with 71.9 percent of people without a disability. North Dakota/4 had the highest employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities, whereas the District of Columbia/5 had the lowest employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities.

1 National Council on Disability, “The Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Assessing the Progress Toward Achieving the Goals of the ADA,” Washington, DC. July 26, 2007.
2 National Council on Disability, “National Disability Policy: A Progress Report,” Washington, DC. March 31, 2009.
4 Not statistically different from Wyoming.
5 Not statistically different from Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

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