Probably a lot more than you thought. However, it took many years to compile accurate information on just how many of us there are, because for years, nobody in America seemed to be able to figure out exactly how to define a "disabled" person.
(A link at the bottom of this page will take you to several studies and articles about disabled Americans.)
The U.S. Census Bureau creates a detailed statistical "snapshot" of us all every ten years.
Government and Business rely on interpretation of Census data to make many important decisions.
In the 2000 Census, disabled people were defined as those who have difficulty "performing certain functions (seeing, hearing, talking, walking, climbing stairs, and lifting and carrying), or ... performing activities of daily living, or ... with certain social roles (doing school work for children, working at a job and around the house for adults)."
And that seemed like a pretty good definition to everyone involved. So for the first time in history, someone finally managed to get an accurate count of people with disabilities, and since that time they have collected an abundance of data about us.
So now, thanks to the Census Bureau's efforts, and several other studies that have been done since the 2000 Census, we "officially" know in 2013 that:
- "People with Disabilities" comprise more than 23% of the U.S. population, or currently about 73 million people;
- Statistically, this percentage is comparable to the percentage of people with disabilities in most other developed nations;
- The percentage of disabled people among America's "senior citizen" population (i.e., people over 50) is now about 53%;
- "Disabled Americans" have been classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as the Nation's largest "minority population segment";
- Collectively, the annual gross income of disabled Americans is over $1 TRILLION;
- In recent years, disabled Americans have spent more than $40 BILLION annually in America's restaurants; and
- Our "consumer spending power" (sometimes also referred to as "disposable income", i.e., the money we have left to spend on ourselves after having paid all of our regular bills) is more than $220 BILLION annually.
If Disabled People were just 73 million grains of sand on the beach, we probably wouldn't be particularly significant to either government or business ...
But what if each one of us was a GOLD NUGGET?