Facts and Figures about People with Disabilities in Chicago and the U.S.

Americans with Disabilities Act

On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the historic civil rights law guaranteeing equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications.

What is a disability?

According to the ADA, the term disability means, with respect to an individual: (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (b) a record of such impairment; or (c) being regarded as having such an impairment.


Population Distribution


Chicago - According to the 2000 Census, over 600,000 Chicago residents, approximately 23 percent of the City’s total population, reported having a disability.

U.S. - The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that there are 51.2 million people with disabilities in the United States. According to Census 2000, approximately 20.9 million families in this country have at least one member with a disability.

By age in the U.S.:

  • 6 percent of children 5 to 15 have disabilities
  • 12 percent of people 16 to 64 have disabilities
  • 41 percent of adults 65 and older have disabilities

Source: 2006 American Community Survey

Globally - The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 600 million people with disabilities around the world.

Breakdown by Disability Type in the U.S.

  • Mobility - 2.8 million people age 15 and older use a wheelchair. Another 9.1 million use an ambulatory aid such as a cane, crutches or walker.
  • Blind/Visually Impaired - 1.8 million people age 15 and older report being unable to see.
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing - 1 million people 15 and older report being unable to hear.
  • Speech - 2.6 million people age 15 and older have some difficulty having their speech understood by others. 
  • Cognitive/Developmental - 14.3 million people reported having limitations in cognitive function, or have a mental or emotional illness that interferes with daily activities, including those with Alzheimer's disease and mental retardation.  This comprises 6 percent of the population age 15 and older.

 Additional Information

Future Estimates:

At age 50, adults are likely to experience age-related physical changes that may affect hearing, vision, cognition, and mobility.

The 2000 Census reported that almost 42% of older adults (65+ years) have one or more disabilities. The Administration on Aging projects that by 2030 there will be more than 69 million people age 65 and older, making up approximately 20% of the total U.S. population.

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