September 27, 2019

Visualizing disability data through maps: RTC:Rural’s state map series

Image of the people with disabilities: Alabama map on top of a background of other maps of Alabama showing different disability data.
Click on the image to view disability maps for the state of Alabama.

RTC:Rural’s Disability in America State Profile Map Series is well underway! We have maps for 17 states posted on the website so far, and more are coming soon. In the next two months general disability maps for every state (for example, Montana and Texas) and Puerto Rico will be complete and available on the RTC:Rural website. Once the general disability rate maps are completed, we will work to produce maps showing different topics for each state. These include:

  • Disability rates among females and males
  • People with vision, cognitive, mobility, self-care, and Independent Living difficulties
  • Veterans with disabilities
  • People with disabilities in poverty
  • Employment, unemployment, and out of labor force rates among people with disabilities

A few states have complete, or nearly complete, sets of topic maps available. These include Alabama, Arizona, and Michigan.

For national maps showing these data, visit the Disability in America National Maps Series page, which is part of Disability Counts. The Disability in America maps were created with demographic data from the most recent American Community Survey summary data, which the U.S. Census Bureau released in December 2018. These maps were originally created as part of our Geography and Rural Disability project. We have continued to update them as new ACS data is released. All of our maps display county-level data.


If you have a request for a specific state or topic map, contact RTC:Rural and we will prioritize the creation of the maps of interest.


State Profile Map Series

RTC:Rural decided to expand on the National Maps Series to focus in on individual states so that the maps could have wider applicability. “It is important to examine issues such as those listed above at multiple spatial levels,” said Ari Lissau, RTC:Rural Research Associate, who is creating the maps. “We can map these data at both the national and state level, down to the county and census block levels to see how rates of disability vary both locally and large scale.”

“The State Profile series allows us to really examine variations in patterns of disability and other demographic variables across rural and urban counties. Quite often, we see that disability rates are higher in rural areas, with few exceptions. With this knowledge, we can then explore what phenomena may be influencing and intersecting with these variations to produce these outcomes,” said Lissau.

The power of maps

A map in the shape of a heart. #MapMonday #EverybodyLovesMaps

RTC:Rural’s maps are created using the most recent data from the American Community Survey, and only show a single topic (or variable) per map. “Once we have a complete series of single variable, state level maps, we are interested in turning to some multi-variable mapping at the state level,” said Lissau. “An example would be to take disability and poverty rates and display where these co-occur. We can also isolate urban and rural counties for cross comparison. Further, we would like to work with other datasets to map things like people receiving SNAP benefits and food insecurity.”

State disability maps can also have use in emergency planning, such as when communities and states plan for natural disaster emergency response. See RTC:Rural’s Maps of Disability Rates in the path of Hurricane Florence (Sept. 2018) and  People with disabilities living in the path of Hurricane Dorian (Sept. 2019) for examples.

Said Lissau, “Maps are a means through which we can translate data into a story for increasing awareness of issues, informing policy, and identifying relationships and correlations, which might otherwise remain largely unknown.”


button for Disability Data Lookup Tool

Want to dive deeper into data for a specific state or specific county? Check out our Disability Data Lookup Tool, which provides an accessible way to look up data about disability in rural areas across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

National Maps button

Explore our Geography and Rural Disability research in these national maps. The maps in our Disability in America Map Series show rates of disability for every county in the U.S. There are maps on many topics, including veterans, poverty, employment, and rural-urban classifications. There are also maps for different kinds of impairments, including: hearing, seeing, mobility, cognitive, self-care, and Independent Living.

state profiles button

Explore disability data at the state level. For each state in the US, view and download county-level maps of  general disability rates, as well as maps of: disability rates among veterans; people with disabilities in poverty; disability rates by sex; disability rates by functional limitations, including vision, hearing, cognitive, mobility, self-care, and independent living difficulty; employment, unemployment, and out of labor force rates among people with disabilities.


If you have any questions about this map series or our geography research, please contact us. Our researchers are available to answer your questions, help you access the data you need, and provide other forms of technical assistance.

Have you used our maps in your work? Let us know!

We want to know where our maps have been and how you’re using them. Send us a message via email or social media and share your story, and you could be featured on our website or social media.