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Celebrating 25 years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

Ada25-logo-horiz-100Signed 25 years ago this month, the Americans With Disabilities Act is helping millions of Americans lead healthier, more productive lives.

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, telecommunications, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s ADA 25th Anniversary page to learn about how the ADA has impacted workers and jobseekers with disabilities. The page includes a disability employment timeline and stories about workers with disabilities. People can also add their own stories by filling in the form at the end of the page.

For a list of ADA 25th Anniversary Events, see Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The U.S.  Census Bureau offers these facts and figures on people with disabilities in America:

Population distribution

56.7 million

Number of people in the United States in 2010 with a disability. People with disabilities represented 19 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.

15.7 million

The number of people 65 and older – 39 percent of the population in this age group – with at least one disability. Of this group, two-thirds had difficulty in walking or climbing. The second-most cited disability was difficulty with independent living, such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping.


Percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in West Virginia in 2013 with a disability – the highest rate of any state in the nation. Utah, at 9.5 percent, had the lowest rate.

Specific disabilities

  • 7.6 million: Number of people 15 and older in 2010 who had a hearing impairment. Among people 65 and older, 4 million had hearing impairments.
  • 8.1 million: Number of people 15 and older in 2010 with a vision impairment.
  • 30.6 million: Number of people 15 and older in 2010 who had movement impairment, such as walking or climbing stairs.
  • 3.6 million: Number of people 15 and older in 2010 who used a wheelchair. This compares with 11.6 million people who used canes, crutches, or walkers.
  • 2.4 million: Number of people 15 and older in 2010 who had Alzheimer’s disease, senility, or any form of neurocognitive disorders.
  • 12 million: Number of people 15 and older in 2010 who required the assistance of others in order to perform one or more basic or instrumental activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, doing housework, and preparing meals.

Older people with a disability


Among the population 65 and older with a disability, the percentage who were age 85 and older.

More than one-third

The proportion of people 85 and older with a disability who lived alone, compared with one-fourth of those age 65 to 74.


Percentage of the older population who hadn’t graduated from high school and had a disability, twice the rate of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.


Percentage of the older Americans living in a household with a disability living in poverty, compared with 7.2 percent of older household population without a disability.



Median earnings in the past 12 months for people with a disability. This is 68 percent of the median earnings, $30,928, for those without a disability.



Percentage of householders with a disability who desired to move to another residence, higher than the corresponding figure of 8.2 percent for those without a disability.


Percentage of householders with a disability who desired to move to another residence and actually did so over a one-year period.


Percentage of all householders with a disability who moved to another residence over a one-year period.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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