People with Disabilities


The phrase “people with disabilities” refers to diverse groups of people with physical, developmental, psychological, vision, hearing, and other disabilities. Not all disabilities are visible. According to the American Disabilities Act, a person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities, has a history or record of this type of impairment, and/or is perceived by others to have this type of impairment. Activism by the disabled people—including the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, and the Autistic community—has expanded our understanding and definitions of disability beyond impairment. Disability is more accurately being redefined in terms of differences, required accommodations, personal lived experience, and identity. An important part of this shift, many disabled people have shifted toward using disability-first language (i.e. a disabled person, an Autistic person, a Deaf person), though person-first language is still preferred in some communities and in reference to some conditions (i.e. a person living with a mental health condition, a person with a TBI). In general, it is best practice to refer to a disabled person in the way they refer to themselves.


People with disabilities belong everywhere, and deserve equitable access to employment, education, housing, healthcare, and recreation. They have made immense contributions to all aspects of life and culture in the United States, despite being historically excluded from many of the fields they impacted. Today, 26% of adults in the U.S. (61 million people) live with a disability. The disabled community has made great strides in advancing accessibility and equity, but disabled people still face disproportionately negative health and mental health outcomes. Long histories of misunderstanding, abuse, lack of care, stigmatization, discrimination, and unequal rights have created deep inequities for people with disabilities. Disabled people are significantly more likely to live in poverty, experience trauma, face barriers to care, and struggle with suicidal ideation than their able-bodied peers. Disabled people who are living in poverty, located in rural communities, LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and/or of color often struggle the most to thrive due to compounding marginalizations.


Disabled people—especially disabled people of color and LGBTQ+ disabled people—are working to push disability equity to the forefront of justice movements, where intersectionality with disability is often overlooked and accessibility is often an afterthought. Misunderstanding, stigma, and exclusion still inhibit progress in all aspects of disability equity, from education and employment, to housing, healthcare, mental healthcare, transportation, and recreation. People with disabilities that are considered rare, complex, and/or “difficult” to accommodate are often most misunderstood and excluded. People with invisible disabilities frequently struggle with both exclusion from able-bodied people and other disabled people, due to their disability and needs not being immediately obvious. Progress with accessibility and disability accommodations are often slowest in rural communities and communities with high rates of poverty. 


Partnering with disabled people to achieve health equity requires uprooting the ableist systems that perpetuate their exploitation, exclusion, and abuse. Institutionalizing and operationalizing accessibility and disability justice throughout all leadership levels of all sectors will require organizations, allies, and systems to deeply center and follow the leadership of disabled people. Justice and equity work must prioritize intersectionality, especially disabled people of color and LGBTQ+ disabled people. Allies should start by recognizing that disability is a complex, nuanced, deeply personal experience, and that change will require many diverse disabled voices. Community-led processes, self-representation, and centering the voices of people with disabilities—including invisible disabilities—are a few effective tactics communities can leverage to advance equity and well-being for disabled people. 


See also: accessibility, mental and behavioral health, neurodiversity, Autism, eating disorders, veterans, older adults


Resources & Tools


Card image cap
Reflecting on My Mom’s Death: Moving Toward A More Complex Understanding of Health, Disability, And Dying
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 03/28/2023
Card image cap
Disability Healthcare Resources
Resource - Data Bank/repository
Card image cap
Warranty of Habitability in Arkansas
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Accessible Health Care
Resource - Guide/handbook
Card image cap
Davidson Walks and Rolls: Active Transportation Master Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 12/31/2012
Card image cap
LGBT People With Disabilities
Resource - Report
Card image cap
Loch Haven Park Improvement Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by East Central Florida Regional Planning Council
Card image cap
Valuing Old Age Without Leveraging Ableism
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Planning for Parks, Green Space, and Trails in Greenville's West Side
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Fort McPherson Interim Zoning
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 12/31/2009
Card image cap
Eagle Pathways and Trails Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Vitruvian Planning
Card image cap
The Best World Map for Accessibility
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Fort McPherson Interim Zoning
Resource - Assessment
Card image cap
Disparities in Suicide
Resource - Fact Sheet
Card image cap
Loch Haven Park Improvement Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 01/01/2013
Card image cap
24th Street Road Diet
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Legalizing Medical Marijuana Through the Utah Medical Cannabis Act
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 11/30/2017
Card image cap
Cowlitz County Coal Export Terminal
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Deafness and Blindness Glossary of Terms
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Potential Health Effects of Changes to the Kansas Liquor Control Act
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Intersections Between Racism and Ableism
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Vehicle-Pedestrian Injury Collisions in San Francisco's Central Corridor
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 01/01/2013
Card image cap
Living Well With a Disability
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Universal Design in Single-Family Housing in Davidson, North Carolina
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Disability-Competent Care
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Roundabout at 53rd Street and West Hills Road
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Englewood Line Greenway
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Connecting Rural Communities: U.S. 30 and Rainier Veterans Way Crossing
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 07/31/2015
Card image cap
King Street Station Multimodal Hub
Resource - Assessment
Card image cap
Shelter-in-Place Policy
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Innovative Models in Health and Housing
Resource
Brought to you by The California Endowment
Card image cap
PlanOKC HIA
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 04/30/2014
Card image cap
Disability and Health Inclusion Strategies
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Lincoln Park Small Area Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Central Oregon Regional Transit
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Delridge Corridor Multimodal Improvement Project
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Derby District Redevelopment
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Aerotropolis Atlanta
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Advanced Metering Infrastructure
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 03/31/2012
Card image cap
Types of Accessibility Aids
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Single-Room Occupancy Hotels in San Francisco
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
North Avenue Corridor in Burlington, Vermont
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 05/31/2014
Card image cap
Disability Statistics
Resource - Data Bank/repository
Card image cap
Pathways to Partnership: Early Childhood
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by SchoolHouse Connection
Card image cap
Michigan Street Corridor Plan: A Health Impact Assessment
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by City of Grand Rapids
Card image cap
Removing the Stumbling Block
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Active Design Supplement: Promoting Safety
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Center for Active Design
Card image cap
City of Decatur Community Transportation Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 12/31/2006
Card image cap
Vermont Paid Sick Leave
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
George Road Complete Streets Implementation Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Neurodivergent Strengths
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Kings Ridge Apartments
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 01/01/2012
Card image cap
Disability Language Style Guide
Resource - Guide/handbook
Card image cap
Disability-Inclusive Youth Programs
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Charlotte Area Transit System Blue Line Extension
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 06/30/2015
Card image cap
Genesee Valley Greenway
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 05/31/2018
Card image cap
Hoboken Stormwater Management Plan and Ordinance
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 09/18/2016
Card image cap
Atlanta Regional Plan 2040
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture
Card image cap
Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Disability Rights Timeline
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
The ADA at 30: Looking Back and Ahead
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Rochester Bike Share
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 05/31/2018
Card image cap
Food Deserts in Tennessee-HIA of SB 1176
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission Biosolids Storage Facility
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws
Resource - Guide/handbook
Card image cap
Metro Westside Subway Extension (Wilshire Corridor)
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 01/01/2012
Card image cap
SE 122nd Ave Pilot Project/East Portland
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Firearms and Suicide Prevention
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
Portland to Lake Oswego Transit Project
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
What is Disability Justice?
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Fact Sheet: Disability Discrimination
Resource - Policy Brief
Card image cap
Omaha Neighborhood Connections
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 02/29/2016
Card image cap
The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by The Hastings Center
Card image cap
Adaptive Yoga – Yoga Guide for Disability
Resource - Website/webpage
Card image cap
MacArthur BART Transit Village
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 12/31/2006
Card image cap
Benton Accessory Dwelling Units
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Benton County Health Department
Card image cap
5 Ways to Include Disability in Equity Work
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Milton U.S. 7 Corridor
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 04/30/2015
Card image cap
Madison Heights
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 05/31/2014
Card image cap
Health Equity for People with Disabilities
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Tampa Brownfields Redevelopment Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
East Greeley and Weld County
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Card image cap
Cautions About Medicalized Dehumanization
Resource - Journal Article
Card image cap
Mystic Island Voluntary Buyout Scenarios
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 12/31/2015
Card image cap
Guide to the ADA Accessibility Standards
Resource - Guide/handbook
Card image cap
Disability-Related Stress and Inaccessibility as Trauma
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Card image cap
Please Don’t Edit Me Out
Story - Written
Card image cap
Creating More Accessible, Inclusive Buildings
Story - Written
Brought to you by CityLab
Card image cap
Georgia's Separate and Unequal Special-Education System
Story - Written
Brought to you by TNY
Card image cap
Trends With Benefits
Story - Audio
Card image cap
Telemental Health Provides Opportunity to Improve Population Mental Health
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Card image cap
Disability Statistics
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Card image cap
SNAP Disability Dashboard
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Card image cap
Disability Integration Toolkit
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
Card image cap
Neurodiversity Resources for Students
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
Card image cap
Vaccine Website Accessibility Dashboard
Tool - Data/mapping Tool

Data & Metrics


Card image cap
Accessibility and Disability Equity Library
Library
Published on 09/01/2022

 Related Topics


Card image
Accessibility

Card image
Older Adults

Card image
Brain Health

Card image
Mental and Behavioral Health

Card image
Mobility

Card image
Autism

Card image
Veterans