As we strive to educate young people about the various aspects of identity and the bias that different social identity groups face, awareness of and empathy for people with disabilities often does not get the focus and attention it deserves. Disability is defined as: “a mental or physical condition that restricts an individual's ability to engage in one or more major life activities (e.g., seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, communicating, sensing, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, working or caring for oneself).” Disabilities can be visible or not visible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 26% of Americans (or 61 million people) are people with disabilities. That means that 1 in every 4 people has a disability. The 2020 U.S. Census reports that 12.7% of the population are people with disabilities; this percentage is lower than what CDC reports. This discrepancy is likely because of the profound difficulties that people with disabilities face in participating in the U.S. Census. Issues including physical and attitudinal barriers, economic inequality, isolation, and lack of information makes it difficult for many people with disabilities to take part in U.S. data collection efforts.
The goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. While significant progress has been made with the enactment of this legislation, many challenges and barriers remain for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are more likely to have poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment and lower salaries, and are less likely to have technology devices and use the internet. Other challenges include discrimination, accessibility in physical environments, social stigma and exclusion, and lack of representation in various forms of media (television, books, movies, gaming etc.).
The resources below provide opportunities for young people to learn more about people with disabilities, their narratives and experiences, the bias and discrimination that they face, and the struggle to continue fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.