“Know me for my abilities, not my disability.” ― Robert M. Hensel
In October 2016, the Utah Department of Workforce Services welcomed the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) under its umbrella of public services. USOR has been in the business of assisting Utahns with disabilities for decades. Workers help those with disabilities find meaningful employment, participate in the community and improve daily life. In addition, Workforce Services helps Utah businesses by connecting them with job-ready applicants, offering training and assistance in recruiting, hiring and maintaining workers with disabilities. Businesses can also receive information on disability issues and workplace accommodations.
What information regarding Utahns with disabilities is available? As is often the case, the American Community Survey (ACS) offers a wealth of demographic data for counties. Using the 2011-2015 ACS averages, Workforce Services has prepared a data visualization detailing the demographics of people with disabilities for Utah’s counties. Five-year averages allow the publication and comparison of data for small counties. This post includes an abbreviated version of the visualization; the full version can be found here. As always, directions in the final tab outline how to download the information.
The ACS (conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau) tackles the difficult task of gathering data on the complex concept of disability with a set of six short questions. ACS seeks to capture six aspects of disability, which can then be used to identify populations with specific disability types.
• Hearing — deaf or serious hearing difficulty
• Vision — blind or serious vision difficulty
• Cognitive — serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
• Ambulatory — serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
• Self-care — difficulty dressing or bathing • Independent living — difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping due to a physical, mental or emotional condition
Respondents are considered to have a disability if they have difficulty with any of the types listed above. For children under five years old, hearing and vision difficulty are used to determine disability status.
What does the survey show? In Utah, roughly 270,000 individuals have a serious disability — 9.3 percent of the total population. That’s substantially lower than the United States share of 12.4 percent. This spread in the share of persons with disabilities results primarily from the different age structures of Utah and the nation. Utah remains the youngest state in the country, and older individuals are most likely to experience a disability.
In both Utah (25 percent) and the United States (27 percent), persons with an ambulatory disability make up the highest percentage of those with disabilities. Next in line in both areas are those with a cognitive disability (22 and 20 percent respectively). Nationally, individuals with an independent living disability make up a slightly larger share than in Utah. In addition, individuals with a hearing disability also comprise a significant share of the total population with a disability in the state and nation.
When it comes to experiencing a disability, age counts. Until age 34, only a small percentage of Utahns experience a disability — 5 percent or less. Even up to age 64, only one in 10 manifests a disability. However, nearly one-fourth of seniors 64 to 74 years of age indicate they experience a disability, while half of persons 75 and older report a disability. U.S. figures are relatively similar.
In the United States, women (12.6 percent) are slightly more likely to report a disability than men (12.2 percent). In Utah, that relationship is reversed. Women (9.2 percent) are slightly less likely to have a serious disability than their male counterparts (9.5 percent).
The following bullets highlight a few other points from the profile.
• Piute County shows the highest share of population with a disability (18 percent). The population of Piute County is also the oldest county in Utah. The lowest share of population with a disability can be found in Summit County.
• Not surprisingly, in general, counties with older populations also have higher share of people reporting disabilities.
• While individuals aged 75-plus are the most likely to show a disability, persons between the ages of 35 to 64 years, make up a larger share of the population of individuals with disabilities (38 percent). Those 75 and older comprise 22 percent. Of course, the 35-to-64 age population also comprises the largest portion of the total population (33 percent).
• In Kane County, 58 percent of men 65 and older report a serious disability — the highest in the state. On the female side, San Juan County shows the highest share of female population over 65 years with a disability (52 percent).
• In Utah, women make up a smaller or commensurate share of persons with a disability than men until 75 years of age. Of course, due to longer life spans, females also make up a larger share of the 75-plus population.
• In Utah, San Juan County shows the highest population share of women with a disability (17 percent), while Kane County displays the highest share of men with a disability (20 percent). Summit, Utah, Morgan and Wasatch counties consistently show low shares of the population with disabilities, regardless of gender.
• More than half of individuals with a disability between the ages of 18 and 64 are not in the labor force. This group comprises 20 percent of all similarly-aged individuals that are not in the labor force.
• In contrast, people with disabilities make up only 5 percent of those employed. Those with a disability are also much more likely to be unemployed (12 percent of total unemployed).
• Workers with a disability are even less likely to work full-time, year-round. They comprise just 4 percent of this category.
• Almost equal numbers of persons with a disability work year-round, full-time and less than year-round, full-time.
• In Box Elder County, workers with a disability appear to make up a disproportionate share of the unemployed — 27 percent. On the other hand, workers with a disability comprise 11 percent of the employed in San Juan County, far higher than the statewide average of 5.0 percent.
• In Utah, the median wage of workers with a disability measures only 72 percent of those without a disability. Male workers with a disability make only 70 percent of their peer’s wage. Workers with a disability are less likely to work year-round, full-time, but this would account for only a small share of the wage gap.
• Workers with a disability experience a smaller-than-average wage gap in Kane, Juab, Tooele, Millard and Garfield counties. Here, the median wage of workers with a disability measures 85 percent or higher of the wage of comparable workers without a disability.
• Individuals with a disability are far less likely to have poverty-level incomes if they work. Only 10 percent of the employed with a disability are below the poverty line compared to 29 percent of those who are not in the labor force.
• Utah veterans are far more likely to report a disability than nonveterans. Nearly 30 percent of veterans report a disability compared to 11 percent of nonveterans. Utah is home to more than 12,000 younger veterans under the age of 64 with a disability, roughly 18 percent of veterans in this age group.
• The non-Hispanic/Latino white population, a majority of Utahns, is noticeably more likely to report a disability (10 percent), than the Hispanic/Latino population (6 percent).