Proposed Census Survey Changes would Reduce Number of Individuals Classified as Having Disabilities

December 12, 2023

The United States Census Bureau has proposed changes to the American Community Survey, which would align the U.S. with international standards, but would also increase the threshold required for individuals to be classified as having disabilities, in a move advocates say would "artificially reduce their numbers by half", as reported in the December 9, 2023 publication of The Star Ledger.

The existing questions on the American Community Survey ask respondents to answer "yes" or "no" if they had "difficulty" or "serious difficulty" seeing; hearing; concentrating; remembering or making decisions because of a physical, mental, or emotional decision; walking or climbing stairs; dressing or bathing; or performing everyday tasks because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition. If any of the answers are "yes", the respondents would be counted as having disabilities.

Under the proposed change, respondents would be asked the same questions, but with four answer choices: "no difficulty", "some difficulty", "a lot of difficulty" and "cannot do at all." Additionally, the threshold for an individual to be classified as having a disability would be increased.

As reported in The Star Ledger, during testing by the Census Bureau last year, the percentage of respondents who would be defined as having disabilities would decrease from 13.9% based on current standards, to 8.1% based on the proposed, internationally aligned standards.

Marlene Sallo, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network and a member of the Census Bureau Advisory Committee, stated of the proposed changes, "Right now, it's not inclusive and will miss many individuals within my community."

Scott Landes, Associate Professor of Sociology at Syracuse University, who is visually impaired, was also quoted, saying, "This, in my mind, is illogical . . . There is a piece of me that thinks, 'How dare you - to think that we don't count.' I get offended."

The proposed changes are open for public comment until next Tuesday, December 19, 2023. Click here to access the proposed changes and to submit formal comments.

If given approval, the changes to the American Community Survey would be implemented in 2025.

Click here to read more on this story.

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