Counting Disabled People in the 2020 Census

People with disabilities are a hard-to-count demographic group, according to the Census Bureau.

A recent brief from the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) and National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), “Why the Census Matters for People with Disabilities: A Guide to the 2020 Census Operations & Challenges,” explores the census operations relevant to the disabled community and discusses why the 2020 Census matters for people with disabilities.

Every self-response mode for the decennial should be fully accessible. “The bureau has conducted checks to ensure system compliance with Section 508 standards.” Guides will be available in braille, large print, and in 59 non-English languages, “including an American Sign Language video guide.” The Bureau’s call centers “will answer questions and accept responses in English and in 12 other languages” and “will utilize Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology.”

The physically and developmentally disabled are at risk of undercount “due to distinct yet often overlapping causes. When poorly designed and tested, inaccessible surveys restrict the participation of people with disabilities. Similarly, insufficient or ineffective outreach efforts may also mean that people with disabilities are not informed of the necessary resources available to support completing the survey. People with disabilities may also feel reluctant to participate in the census. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with disabilities may be suspicious of the government or concerned that personal information will be used to determine their eligibility for government programs. Individuals with a mental health history, for example, may strongly mistrust federal authorities due to past experiences of involuntary treatment or the criminalization of behavior and circumstances associated with their mental health condition.” Disabled people may also be part of other hard to count demographic groups or live in hard to count areas.

The GCPI-NDRN brief offers a series of ways to “ensure a more accurate count of people with disabilities.”

CP disabled graphic