People with disabilities are often the first to experience economic disruptions, and among the last to recover. Unemployment among people with disabilities spiked to 18.9% in April 2020 and declined to 12.5% in September. Both the initial increase and recent decrease in unemployment was primarily driven by changes in temporary unemployment (unemployed workers who expect to go back to their same job within six months). While temporary unemployment has gone down, permanent unemployment has risen since the recession began, and may indicate that for some, temporary unemployment is becoming permanent.
As the recession wears on and unemployment benefits begin to expire, long-term recovery to pre-pandemic levels may become elusive, yet again leaving people with disabilities behind.
Understanding the needs of a community is imperative in order to effectively organize natural disaster emergency response. As people begin to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Laura, national, state and local community emergency planners and response teams are working to provide support for thousands of people who have evacuated or have sustained damage to their homes. People with disabilities are one of many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters.
Recent models from ProPublica, Imperial College, and others predict that millions of people who contract COVID-19 will be hospitalized and many hospitals across the country may not be prepared to treat the influx of patients.
People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to impacts from COVID-19, both directly and indirectly. While data about how this virus will impact the health and well-being of people with disabilities is currently limited, people with disabilities are often at greater risk of chronic health conditions, and thus may be more susceptible to infection. People with disabilities also face disruptions in services for daily needs, which could exacerbate conditions unrelated to COVID-19.
Overall, individuals who experience disability are at greater risk for being hospitalized either because they have contracted COVID-19 or because pre-existing health conditions have worsened.
In order to create policies and programs that serve the needs of
people with disabilities in rural communities, it is important to know things
about them, such as demographic information and location. The federal
government maintains several large data sets that collect this information.
However, it can be difficult to access rural disability data from these data
sets (see Data Limitations in the American Community
Survey: The Impact on Rural Disability Research).
To address this, RTC:Rural is conducting rural analyses of
existing large data sets to contribute to a national disability statistics
RTC:Rural’s previous research has found that people who live in rural areas begin to experience disability from mobility, cognitive and sensory impairment as much as 10 years before people in urban areas. There are also higher rates of disability in rural areas across all age groups. We have also found that racial and ethnic minorities experience the highest disability rates as well as the greatest urban/rural differences.
While some people are born with a disability, most disability is acquired. This can happen suddenly by injury or slowly by chronic disease. Healing, disease course and medical treatment, underlying causes of disability, often fluctuate. This means people do not always report disability consistently over time.
In order to understand urban/rural differences, RTC:Rural is conducting research to understand how disability evolves in rural and urban areas.
Bryce Ward, RTC:Rural Statistician, explains the project and its goals, and gives a quick progress update.
RTC:Rural researchers Andrew Myers, Dr. Bryce Ward, Dr. Jennifer Wong, and Dr. Craig Ravesloot recently published a paper in the journal Social Science & Medicine titled “Health status changes with transitory disability over time.” Myers is a RTC:Rural Project Director, Dr. Bryce Ward is the RTC:Rural Statistician, and Dr. Ravesloot is RTC:Rural Research Director. Dr. Wong is a former RTC:Rural Research Associate and University of Washington research fellow.
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 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
Understanding the needs of a
community is imperative in order to effectively plan for natural disaster
emergency response. As Hurricane Dorian heads toward the Florida coast,
national, state and local community emergency planners are working to evacuate
and shelter thousands of people who are fleeing their homes.
People with disabilities are one of
many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters. In times of
emergency, people will evacuate with their households, and will need to shelter
with their households. It is not acceptable to separate families and households
in times of crisis. Many family
members are caregivers, so shelters need to be accessible so
that people with disabilities and their families and caregivers can stay
“The purpose of the Research Review was to showcase research projects that harness administrative data to improve services for people with disabilities,” Ipsen said. “In addition to representatives from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), several researchers described projects that used administrative data to answer and inform research questions.” Continue reading →
In December 2018 the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2013-2017 American Community Survey summary data. In the recently released fact sheet “Employment disparity grows for rural Americans with disability,” RTC:Rural researchers used this data to begin exploring how employment rates have changed for people with disabilities in the context of changing economic conditions. They found increasing disparities between people with and without disabilities across the country as well as across the rural-urban continuum.
Click the links below to download the fact sheet from the RTC:Rural and Rural Institute ScholarWorks collection: