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Measuring Disability in a Census


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include disability in the goals on education, employment, social, economic, and political inclusion, and safe and accessible cities. Furthermore, the SDGs call for building the capacity of national statistical organizations in developing countries to increase the availability of quality data disaggregated by disability.

Prevalence of disability varies widely across the globe with low-income countries generally reporting lower rates of disability (1 to 3 percent) than high-income countries (8 to 20 percent) (Mont, 2007; WHO, 2011; Hirshberg and Mont, ND). Possible reasons for the range in disability rates include the use of different definitions of disability, number and type of questions asked, method of data collection, and the quality of the study design (WHO, 2011; Mont, 2007). While surveys tend to report higher rates of disability than censuses (Mont, 2007), for countries that do not have regular surveys to assess the prevalence and distribution of disability, a census can be an important source of information on disability. Such information on disability can be used to:

  • Guide the development of disability-related policies, programs, and services.
  • Monitor levels and trends.
  • Evaluate human and civil rights efforts to equalize opportunities.
  • This technical note is available in both English and Russian


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