“I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things! -Mother Theresa”

The American Community Survey (ACS) estimates the overall rate of people with disabilities in the US population in 2015 was 12.6%. The percent of people with disabilities varies greatly by state, as do levels of people with disabilities in employment, poverty, earnings, and health behaviors.

All disability types (hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living) have increases in disability percentages with age; cognitive disabilities show the least change between age groups.

The employment gap between those with a disability and those without has widened steadily over the past 8 years from 38.8 to 41.1 percentage points.

According to 2015 data, the median earnings of US civilians with disabilities ages 16 and over was $21,572, about two-thirds of the median earnings of people without disabilities ($31,874). An earnings disparity of over $10,000 in median earnings between those with and without disabilities has existed since at least 2008. The disparity has increased in magnitude since 2013.

More than one in five (21.2%) US civilians with disabilities of working-age in 2015 were living in poverty. For US civilians of working-age without disabilities, the national poverty rate was 13.8%.

When you see this list of names, what first comes to mind? Stevie Wonder, Vincent Van Gogh, Beethoven, Stephen Hawking, and Helen Keller. Most likely your thoughts centered around each of them being famous in their field, creative and major contributors to society. What you may not have thought of is the fact that each of them had a disability. Helen Keller was deaf and blind and became the first person to earn a bachelor of arts degree before going on to be a political activist, author and lecturer. And who hasn’t been awed by the music or paintings of Beethoven or Van Gogh? Contrary to certain stigmas, our communities rely on the perspective, talents and contributions of all individuals, regardless of their restrictions and/or abilities.

Unfortunately, many individuals that have a disability find themselves struggling to overcome the many societal barriers to access healthy food, health care, employment and/or housing. Until our community can value each member, regardless of what he/she may be able to contribute, the entire community suffers.