The report, Americans with Disabilities: 2010, presents estimates of disability status and type and is the first such report with analysis since the Census Bureau published statistics in a similar report about the 2005 population of people with disabilities. According to the report, the total number of people with a disability increased by 2.2 million over the period, but the percentage remained statistically unchanged. Both the number and percentage with a severe disability rose, however. Likewise, the number and percentage needing assistance also both increased.
The statistics come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which contains supplemental questions on whether respondents had difficulty performing a specific set of functional and participatory activities. For many activities, if a respondent reported difficulty, a follow-up question was asked to determine the severity of the limitation, hence, the distinction between a “severe” and “nonsevere” disability. The data were collected from May through August 2010. Disability statistics from this survey are used by agencies — such as the Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Administration on Aging — to assist with program planning and management.
The report shows that 41 percent of those age 21 to 64 with any disability were employed, compared with 79 percent of those with no disability. Along with the lower likelihood of having a job came the higher likelihood of experiencing persistent poverty; that is, continuous poverty over a 24-month period. Among people age 15 to 64 with severe disabilities, 10.8 percent experienced persistent poverty; the same was true for 4.9 percent of those with a nonsevere disability and 3.8 percent of those with no disability.What about autism? The report says: "Roughly 1.2 million adults (0.5 percent) had an intellectual disability and 944,000 (0.4 percent) had other developmental disabilities, like cerebral palsy or autism." Among people under 15, Table A-4 of the report says, 1.5 percent have a developmental disability. Needless to say, the big question is whether this difference reflects a true increase in prevalence or different rates in reporting autism and other developmental disabilities.