Almost every article I read concerning disability, reference is made that 15 to 20% of all persons have a disability. And yet, this often begs the question, where the hell are they?
If we look at the definition, then Disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these. It substantially affects a person’s life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person’s lifetime.
The Americans With Disabilities Act tells us that disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. And this criteria is used in family consensus surveys (national or at EU level), offering this 15-20% score. Aside from the fact this is a subjective question, the answers received contain multiple tangents. Nevertheless, the numbers are, statistically speaking, directionally correct and therefore representative. So the numbers factually ring true, but this still doesn’t answer the question where are they?
Various national and vertical studies offer clear directives on how their populations can be split, but these still need to be interpreted and agregated to offer anything of more simple meaning. The largest group within the 15-20% population of adults with a disability, is the other category; approximately 50%. This category includes non-visible medical conditions such as diabetes, malfunctioning organs, and much more. 15% of persons can be classed as having psychological conditions and another 15% learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia. 5% of persons with a disability are sensory impaired, for example sight or hearing. The remaining 15% are the most visible as these are mobilty impaired. But of these, only 2% would require the use of a wheelchair to aid mobility.
A further factor affecting the above is age. It may be no surprise that these statistics cover the full population, with 50% of disabilities being applicable to persons over the age 65. For example, the number of wheelchair users can be halved when taking the working age into account. This means that for every 1,000 people below 65, there is one person in a wheelchair. However, it would be wrong to conclude this applies to infants too. Over half of persons in a wheelchair are accident induced, typically from a fall, a car-crash or violence, at an adult age.
It is important to realise that disabilities come in all shapes and sizes and it is therefore difficult to collectively classify a disabled community. Many work, many do not. Many are independent, many are not. Some 10-15% of all disabilities are said to require full-time care, but even then, many are professionally and socially productive.
However, the collective forum is extremely important to continue to drive the message home that accessibility, mobility and diversity is paramount to form a fully inclusive and participative society that benefits the whole population.