Disability in America: More Common Than You Think


Growing up, I didn't know any kids with disabilities in my neighborhood. Then I became a parent of a child with disabilities, and became very aware of the many, many kids with special needs—both in my area and, thanks to blogging and social media, throughout the country. There is definitely comfort (and inspiration and information) in numbers. And so, I was interested to read the results of a recent report from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Prevalence of Disability and Disability Type Among Adults. Among the findings:

- 1 in 5 adults—or more than 53 million people in the United States—has a disability. State-level estimates range from 16.4 percent in Minnesota to 31.5 percent in Alabama.

- The most common functional disability is mobility disability (defined as serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs), reported by 1 in 8 adults.

- Among women aged 18 years or older, 24.4 percent of women have a disability, and 19.8 percent of men do.

The report's creators hope that health officials and other "stakeholders invested in the health and well-being of people with disabilities" will use the information to better understand and address the needs of this population. Which gives me more hope for my son's future. There seems to be so much focus on caring for America's aging population, which is obviously necessary (one third of people 65 and older report having a disability) but has left me wondering, What about the population of people with disabilities?

To be sure, I also have big questions about state funding of services—cutbacks are everywhere. But still, as parents of kids with special needs well know, it is heartening to not feel so alone. I am grateful to the adults with disabilities who are forging a path for Max and kids like him.

Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.

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