Census & Disability: A History
As directed by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a nationwide population count – coined ‘decennial census’ – once every ten years. The data from these surveys determines Congressional seating reallocations, influences how over $675 billion in federal funding are distributed, and establishes where legislative, school, and voting boundaries are set. Securing a complete and accurate population count is important because the data serves as a foundation for fair political, social, and economic representation.
Despite being a part of every community in the country, people with disabilities are often underrepresented in and excluded from population data, and consequently encounter disproportionate barriers to resources (including health care, transportation, housing, social programming support, etc.). As a result of historically low decennial census participation rates for people with disabilities, the U.S. Census Bureau has identified the disability community as a hard-to-count population (i.e., the disability community is at a greater risk of being undercounted).
Moving forward, it will become increasingly important for the U.S. Census Bureau and partners to take further measures to better include people with disabilities in decennial and other population surveys like the American Community Survey (ACS), which features disability data. Inclusive data is essential to dismantling disability-based discrimination and advancing opportunities and protections so that people of all abilities can fully participate in society without barriers to flourishing in life.
NDRN & the 2020 Decennial Census
Before and throughout 2020, NDRN and P&A agencies worked closely with the U.S. Census Bureau and disability and civil rights partners to ensure that everyone was counted in the 2020 Census. This work included collaborating with partners on accessible materials, such as Braille and large-print forms, ADA-compliant web portals; researching and publishing information and material relevant to the disability community; conducting social media campaigns; and advocating for people with disabilities to have a voice in a fair, accurate, and accessible 2020 Census. NDRN also hosted (in-person and virtual) events and webinars about the importance of the disability community engaging and participating in national census surveys.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Flynt, Public Policy Analyst, at [email protected] or (202) 408-9514 x134.