July 26th marks the 24th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that strengthens the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Anyone can have a disability and a disability can occur at any point in a person’s life. An estimated 37 million1 to 57 million2 people are living with a disability in the U.S. and many people will experience a disability some time during the course of their life. When the ADA was enacted on July 26, 1990, its stated goals were to promote equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.3
CDC has embraced the spirit of the ADA. In 2010, CDC Director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden established an initiative to serve the health needs of people with disability in the United States. He later stated in 2012, “If we’re not inclusive we end up with two huge problems: one is that we’re unjust to the population and the second is that we’re not being as effective as we could be as organizations; we’re not taking advantage of everyone’s capacity.”4
People with disabilities need public health programs and health care services for the same reasons anyone does—to be well, active, and a part of the community. Unfortunately, major health gaps exist between adults with and without disabilities on leading indicators of health. For example:
- 30.3% of adults with disabilities reported they currently smoked cigarettes every day or some days, compared to 16.7% of adults without disabilities. (Disability and Health Data System (DHDS), 2012 data.)
- 38.4% of adults with disabilities were obese, based on body mass index (BMI) calculated from self-reported weight and height (kg/m2), compared to 24.4% of adults without disabilities. (Disability and Health Data System (DHDS), 2012 data.)
- 42.7% of adults with disabilities reported sufficient aerobic physical activity, compared to 54.5% of adults without disabilities. (Disability and Health Data System (DHDS), 2011 data.)
CDC’s Division of Human Development and Disability at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) recognizes ADA as a platform for the inclusion of people with disabilities in federal efforts related to health and health care.
NCBDDD developed Disability and Health Data System (DHDS) to provide public health programs with instant access to national and state-level health and demographic data on adults with disabilities.
Supporting State and National Disability and Health Programs
Currently, 18 state-based disability and health programs are supported by NCBDDD to make sure that individuals with disabilities are included in ongoing disease prevention, health promotion, and emergency response activities within the state. NCBDDD also partners with five National Public Health Practice and Resource Centers (NPHPRC) to improve the lives of individuals living with disabilities by promoting health information, education, consultation and inclusion of health care professionals, people with disabilities, caregivers, media, researchers, policymakers and the public.
Visit CDC’s website for more information on CDC’s work to include people with disabilities in public health.
- U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S1810; generated by Michael H. Fox.
- Brault MW. Americans with disabilities: 2010. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau; 2012.
- State of Georgia’s ADA Coordinator’s Office. History and Spirit Behind the ADA.
- Public Health Matters Blog. Grand Rounds: People with Disabilities and Public Health.