A controversial Census Bureau proposal could shrink the U.S. disability rate by 40%

The U.S. Census Bureau has proposed changes to how its annual American Community Survey produces estimates of how many people with disabilities are living in the country. A proposal to change how the Census Bureau produces a key set of estimates about the number of people with disabilities in the United States has sparked controversy among many disability advocates. Some are concerned that the potential revisions to the disability questions on the bureau’s annual American Community Survey, as well as how the bureau reports out people’s responses, could skew the government’s official statistics. That in turn, advocates worry, would make it harder to ensure that disabled people have access to housing and health care, enforce legal protections against discrimination in schools and at work, and prepare communities for disasters and emergencies. The proposal has also resurfaced longstanding questions about how accurately the bureau’s data represents people with disabilities in the U.S., especially as more people are living with the emerging effects of long COVID . The bureau says the recommended changes are part of a years-long effort to improve the quality of its disability data and standardize the statistics so they’re comparable to other countries’ numbers. But the agency is getting pushback for its proposed shift from asking yes-or-no questions — about, for example, whether a person has “serious difficulty” with hearing, seeing, concentrating, walking and other functional abilities — to asking a person to rate their level of difficulty. New estimates of disabled people, a committee of federal agency representatives has recommended, would be based on only survey participants who report “A lot of difficulty” or “Cannot do at all.” Those reporting “Some difficulty” would be left out. That recommendation could shrink the estimated share of the U.S. population with any disability by about 40% — from 13.9% […]

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By Donato