Understanding Disability in America Using Census Bureau Statistics
Understanding Disability in America Using Census Bureau Statistics

Categories: Community Life

Census Disability Data Slide

By Guest Blogger Amy Steinweg, survey statistician, U.S. Census Bureau

July 26, 2014marked the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Do you know how federal, tribal, state and local planners know the characteristics of local populations in order to improve services such as more accessible transportation? Or, how someone can evaluate the success of these programs? The answers to both of these questions are: U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The Census Bureau collects disability data throughout the year and on multiple surveys. The most useful survey for this purpose may be the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS has the largest sample size of any of the Census Bureau surveys. As a result, it can produce estimates for places, cities and counties, in addition to larger geographies. The ACS includes six questions on disability and a variety of additional topics such as demographics, employment and health insurance coverage.

Statistics about the size, distribution and needs of the population with disabilities are essential for developing disability employment policy. For the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), information about functional limitations are important to ensure that comparable services are available to all people with disabilities. Under the Older Americans Act, federal grants are awarded to states and tribal areas based on the number of elderly people with physical and mental disabilities.

Local governments across the country use ACS statistics to plan projects and allocate resources. Frequently, as the only data source available on local populations, the ACS provides critical insight for public service planning. On Census.gov, American FactFinder provides dynamically generated tables and maps, with dozens focused specifically on disability and many more that include disability as a characteristic.

For example, through FactFinder, we can discover that among the civilian non-institutionalized population in 2012, the county (with a population of 65,000 or more) with the highest disability rate was Pike County, Ky. (30 percent). Arlington County, Va., at 5 percent, had among the lowest rates. Pike County also had a lower employment rate for individuals with a disability. In 2012, 22 percent of people with a disability in Pike County were employed, compared to 41 percent in Arlington County. This is just an example of the invaluable statistics that the ACS can provide.

In a country of more than 318 million individuals, understanding disability across America is not simple. The Census Bureau statistics, however, offer a great place to start.

Amy Steinweg is a survey statistician with the Health and Disability Statistics Branch in the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. For the past six years, she has produced and analyzed health insurance and disability data, with particular expertise in the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Steinweg received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in demography, with a focus on health and disability, from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Living with No Boundaries: Meet Alice
Living with No Boundaries: Meet Alice

Categories: Disability.Blog News, Employment

Alice, a participant in the No Boundaries Photo Project

By the Disability.gov team

Living with a disability, according to Alice, means laughing a lot – and occasionally laughing at yourself. As she sat in Pizzeria da Marco and shared her story with the Disability.gov team, Alice’s laughter was bubbly, constant and infectious. “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” she said. “Everyone has to do the same thing. Some just get there faster.”

While the photographer directed her to turn this way and that for the camera, Alice talked about her life with spina bifida as though it never affected her. And in many ways, it hasn’t. Alice has a twin, who does not have a disability, and their mother encouraged them to model their behavior off one another. When Alice couldn’t join her sister for kickball games, her mother bought a piano and arranged for her to take music lessons. Her mother’s efforts and expectations ensured, as much as possible, that Alice was not treated differently due to her disability.

Expectations have been a running theme throughout her life. Alice’s family is originally from Uruguay, and she has crisscrossed the globe, traveling to Thailand, South America and Europe. This led to her initial career as a travel agent. The rise of trip-planning websites contributed to Alice’s next career steps: she decided to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree in sociology. During her studies, she earned a scholarship to intern at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy from January 2005 to May 2006. Her job involved corresponding with grantees and helping policy advisors on various projects. Alice navigated the Washington, D.C. metro system with her service dog and sometimes a scooter; however, she admits she often found it difficult to use public transportation due to a lack of accessibility.

When her internship finished, Alice returned to California where she later got a job as a disability insurance program representative for the state’s Employment Development Department. Today, she is a lead job developer at Disabled Resources Center, an independent living center. In her job, Alice counsels clients, with mental, physical and intellectual disabilities, in job development, resume writing, interview skills and computer training. She also serves as a bridge between clients and employers once someone is hired.

Alice is bilingual, which is essential to her work with people with disabilities within the Hispanic community. Since many people living in southern California do not speak English as a first language, she is in an excellent position to explain to them in Spanish how her organization can help people with disabilities find employment. In addition, Alice was recently accepted into the Masters Public Administration program at the California State University, Long Beach.

When Alice saw the Disability.govNo Boundaries photo project, she jumped at the chance to come back full circle to the nation’s capital. While here, Alice noticed a change in accommodations since the last time she visited. Generally, life twenty years ago was very different for people with disabilities, she said. It was hard to get around and she often felt guilty about asking people for help. Even five years ago, she found more people willing to help and that accessibility had become more common. “We’ve come a long way, but we do still have a ways to go,” she said.

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Prioritizing Your Job Needs
Prioritizing Your Job Needs

Categories: Benefits & Assistance Programs, Employment

Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder of Employment Options, Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options, Inc.

If you have a disability and are thinking of returning to work, you may be wondering if you are ready or whether you should work in the community or from home. This checklist of questions can help you prioritize and get some clarity.

#1: What are the ‘benefits’ of going back to work?
Benefits are more than just money and a paycheck. Many employers provide benefit options including healthcare plans, savings plans, vacation, vision/dental and even paid training.

“Benefits” can be personal rather than monetary, such as feeling good about bringing in an income, the confidence that comes from having a job and a sense of accomplishment when helping people.

Working on-site can be good for getting mobile people out of the house and meeting new people in new surroundings. For those less mobile, working from home is a lifeline to the world. Not only do you get to talk to people during your shift, but you can add significant money to your wages due to lack of commute, fashion needs or transportation costs.

The feeling of helping people through your job is also an especially rewarding benefit! Those who work in customer service or tech support from home, for example, may help solve a person’s computer problem, sort out a return, explain a purchase or make a reservation.

When you return to work, you are also reawakening skills and learning new ones – another benefit! You are getting valuable experience and cementing your abilities. So write down the benefits of working and be inspired!

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