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Special Education

21 Years After ADA, Census Reveals Some Startling Statistics

By Nirvi Shah — July 26, 2011 1 min read

Today is the 21st anniversary of the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act—the law that children with disabilities rely on both as young people and when they leave the protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

For example, when students attend colleges and universities, the ADA is what governs whether their needs, based on their disability, will be addressed. So when some universities were using electronic readers that couldn’t be used by students with vision problems, they were admonished based on the protections of the ADA.

Some 36 million people in the United States have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, including about 5 percent of children age 5 to 17.

I realize 21 is not the typical round-number anniversary worthy of ticker-tape parades and paper horns, but I couldn’t pass this one up. The Census Bureau came up with a list of statistics related to the passage of ADA, and one figure is hard to look past—and not something that anyone would celebrate: While 12 percent of people without a disability haven’t earned a high school diploma, that figure more than doubles, to 28 percent, for students with disabilities. Yet under IDEA, parents and advocates continue to fight for an appropriate education for many children with disabilities.

The Census Bureau also notes that:

21 percent of people 16 and older have disabilities and live in poverty, compared to 11 percent of those without a disability. 72 percent of people with disabilities of the same age aren't working, compared to 27 percent of those without a disability. For those who do work, the median income is $18,865, about $10,000 less than those without a disability.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.