Disability Statistics in the US: Looking Beyond Figures for an Accessible and Inclusive Society

Disability Statistics in the US: Looking Beyond Figures for an Accessible and Inclusive Society

Grand Central Terminal in New York City bustling with people

Disability Statistics in the US: Looking Beyond Figures for an Accessible and Inclusive Society

 

Around 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. Diving into disability statistics in the US will help us know exactly who is concerned and what can be done to make their lives easier in terms of accessibility and inclusion. 

Because people with disabilities are more than figures just as they are more than their disabilities. Like everybody, they are part of our society and contribute to shaping it. They have the right to use public transit, get around in their city… Our society would be better if it remembered it.

What are the different types of disabilities? What is the most common one in the United States? What accessibility solutions can help them be more integrated in our society? It’s time to take a closer look at disability statistics in the US and the people that are behind them!

How many people with disabilities live in the US?

As stated, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), the United States counts around 61 million adults with disabilities. That represents 26% of adults in the US or 1 in 4 adults. On a national scale, these 61 million adults with disabilities could inhabit Italy. Its population is around 60 million inhabitants.

What types of disabilities affect their lives?

There are 4 disability families to distinguish but each disability type can be declined in plural:

Visual impairment: this concerns blind and visually impaired people, that is to say that some have completely lost their vision but others can perceive shapes and lights. 

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability? 

Around 12 million Americans 40 years and over have vision disabilities. Among them, we can find 1 million blind people.

It’s to be noted that 81% of people with blindness or moderate or severe visual disabilities are over 50 years old. 

Hearing impairment: deaf and hard of hearing people have different ranges of hearing impairments from mild to profound. Some may have hearing aids or cochlear implants and others may not be able to perceive any sound.

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Approximately 48 million people have a hearing impairment in the US.

Intellectual impairment (also known as cognitive impairment): people with intellectual disabilities, from mild to profound, have difficulties learning and communicating with others. 

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

Around 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability

However, 85% of them have a mild form of intellectual disability. 

This concerns people with Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. As adults, they have the same mental abilities as an 8-year-old child. 

It’s to be noted that the term “cognitive disability” used to be employed as a synonym for “intellectual disability” but this has gradually changed. Although both have an impact on the learning process of a person, they don’t have the same meaning.

A cognitive disability means a person has obstacles to learning. They may have difficulties focusing for a certain period of time or having problems in dealing with number quantities or even processing printed text.

An intellectual disability means a person has specific cognitive difficulties that result in a low intelligent quotient score (IQ). They may experience difficulties socializing with others, understanding information or adapting to new situations. 

Physical impairment: it doesn’t only concern wheelchair users but all people in general who find it difficult to get around or to perform manual tasks. We can talk of motor disabilities.

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

Approximately 39 million Americans have motor impairments. Physical impairment is actually the most common disability in the US. 1 in 7 adults, that is to say 13.7%, have difficulties getting around, walking or climbing stairs. 

More disability statistics in the US

These disability statistics and figures are striking and make us ponder on disability in general in the US. Other figures foretell what place disability will have in the upcoming future.

According to the US Census Bureau projections, in 2030, people 65 years and older will outnumber children. With a growing elderly population, this means that disabilities will probably increase in the United States.

By 2050, the number of blind and visually impaired people in the United States is expected to double to more than 8 million. Studies funded by the National Eye Institute have come to this conclusion. 

The same studies have determined that the number of legally blind Americans will double as well to reach 2 million.

People 80 years and over will be the most affected by blindness and visual impairment. Their advanced age may lead to eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

What accessibility solutions can make their lives easier?

Now that we’re aware that 61 million Americans have disabilities and that this number will keep growing, how can we remove accessibility barriers? We can all be affected by a disability, temporary or permanent, at some point in our lives, especially as we’re getting older. 

One thing is sure: every little thing can be a challenge. Crossing the street when you’re blind, asking for information to a staff member when you’re deaf, getting around with your wheelchair inside a venue…, are all activities that can take place on a daily basis. 

We will not detail every accessibility solution in this article as you can find more in-depth information on this blog on various areas (transportation, roadways, public venues…). But we’ll browse through the most common ones to give you an idea of what can easily be implemented.

The key is to provide all users with a seamless mobility chain wherever they are and to wherever they want to go. 

Blind and visually impaired people

Audio beacons at the entrance of public venues,

Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs,

⊗ Tactile guide paths,

Audio information,

⊗ Accessible pedestrian signals

Deaf and hearing impaired people

Visual and textual information, 

Audio induction loops or amplification systems,

American Sign Language interpreters…

People with intellectual disabilities

Pictograms,

Simplified maps of venues,

Easy-to-read-and-understand information,

Learning workshops on transport networks…

People with physical disabilities

Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility (PRM),

Large sidewalks for wheelchair users,

Large entrance doors,

Access ramps,

Secured stairs for people with reduced mobility,

Elevators,

Lowered counters…

Technology can also be a very helpful tool for people with disabilities to easily get around. Using an indoor navigation app like Evelity is perfect for them to apprehend complex venues such as public transit networks. The app adapts to every user’s profile to better suit their needs. Evelity is currently installed at the Jay St-MetroTech subway station in New York City and also at the Luma museum in Arles, France. 

How can we have a more inclusive society?

Correctly implementing the appropriate accessibility solutions is a giant step towards inclusion. However, inclusion is actually a state of mind to adopt and is much more complex. 

For those who would like to learn more about the very concept of inclusion from a philosophical point of view, you can check out this article:

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

For our society to be accessible and inclusive, it first needs to take into account all types of disabilities and to fully acknowledge those who live with them. The phrase “don’t just a book to its cover” can perfectly illustrate it. 

It implies that we never know what others face in their everyday lives and that we shouldn’t make assumptions. This applies particularly to invisible disabilities, disabilities that aren’t obvious at first glance but that come up only when a person is facing difficulties.

For example, we can’t tell if a person is deaf or hearing impaired just by looking at them. It comes up when we’re talking to them. Some hearing impaired people may talk and read lips and others may have difficulties understanding what we’re saying. 

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

That’s why disability awareness is so important. A lot of people with disabilities are using their own voice to raise awareness and show what their daily life is like. They share their experiences, their difficulties but also their success. It’s particularly obvious in July for Disability Pride Month

But we can all make a difference by simply listening to people with disabilities. They’re best suited to tell us what they need to better participate in our society.

We talked earlier of accessibility solutions but let’s not put aside human assistance. A trained staff in welcoming and communicating with people with disabilities is key. It concerns all types of public venues. But it’s also important at workplaces. How to best welcome a colleague with disabilities? From the CEO to employees, whatever their level may be, all can benefit from disability awareness to make sure their colleague with disabilities succeeds and feels like they belong at their workplace. 

We first focused on disability statistics in the US to have a global insight of disability. But there are people behind these figures who are looking for accessibility solutions to improve their lives. These solutions make sure they access everything our society has to offer. We need to look beyond these figures to be on the path of inclusion. 

Additional sources:

Deafness and Hearing Loss (WHO)

National Association of the Deaf

Resource for U.S Disability Statistics

Want to know how many people live with disabilities in the World? Check out all the figures:

Disabled People in the World: Facts and Figures

Published on April 8th, 2022

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Two people sitting face to face and chatting

For our society to be accessible and inclusive, it first needs to take into account all types of disabilities and to fully acknowledge those who live with them.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability?

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability?

A pedestrian with a visual impairment crossing the street in New York

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability?

 

Approximately 12 million American people are affected by a visual disability and no less than 253 million people in the world. Who are they? What are their needs? How can we facilitate their social participation?

It’s referred to visual disability beneath a specific threshold of impairment. But the WHO considers that 2.2 billion people suffer from a vision disorder worldwide. Another notable fact, this figure should double by 2050. We will see in this article that visual impairment covers a wide variety of profiles and causes whose impact on daily life differs from one person to another. But there are major accessibility principles to follow to facilitate access to your services for all these communities!

Blindness, low vision, visual impairment, what is it exactly?

In humans, 80% of the information transmitted to the brain comes from the eyes. The main functions that determine the quality of the vision are:

Visual acuity,

Visual field,

Binocular vision,

Depth perception,

Color vision,

Sensitivity to light and

Contrast perception.

Visual acuity is the ability to recognize details of an object at the greatest possible distance. Using the meter as a unit of measurement, visual acuity is expressed relative to 6/6. Otherwise, using the foot, visual acuity is expressed relative to 20/20. These values indicate “normal” human eyesight. But they fluctuate over the lifetime. From the age of 45, it is common for visual acuity to be reduced in near vision. This is presbyopia, a disorder linked to the natural aging of the lens.

Visual field corresponds to the visible area in front of you when fixing straight at a point without moving. The normal visual field extends 180° horizontally and 130° vertically. Thus, all the elements that enter the visual field (movement, light, color, shape) are likely to attract the eye, even if the perception of details remains the distinctive feature of central vision. The peripheral visual field is reduced in children under 8 and the elderly. Certain eye disorders such as glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa also considerably reduce the visual field.

Binocular vision is the ability to coordinate the two eyes so that the brain makes a single image from what each eye sends it. It plays a crucial role in depth perception. A lack of alignment or coordination of the two eyes, called strabismus, can lead to loss of vision in one eye if it is not taken care of from early childhood.

Color vision is generally very good in humans, much better than in most animals. However, color vision abnormalities are common. Namely: color blindness affects 8% of the male population.

Visual impairment means that one or more of these functions are impaired.

Visual impairment, or low vision, is defined by a visual acuity between 6/60 to 6/18 or a visual field less than or equal to 20°. The visual acuity taken into account is with the best possible correction (glasses or contact lenses) and in the better eye.

Blindness is the complete absence of vision. The expression “legal blindness” means that the visual capacities of the person are insufficient to be used. People with a visual acuity of less than 20/200 (in the better eye with the best possible correction) or a visual field of less than 10° fall under the “blindness” category.

What accessibility for the visually impaired?

Like other disabilities, visual impairment takes different forms and to varying extents. Blind people resort to the use of their valid senses: hearing, touch, smell, but also the echolocation, cold drafts, temperature differences, etc. People who have low vision act a little differently in that they maximize their visual potential.

The difficulties encountered by blind or visually impaired people in public spaces concern:

Reading information,

Location and orientation in space,

The ability to cross the street safely,

The ability to detect dangers…

In order to improve access to the environment and services for people with a visual impairment, the following recommendations should be applied:

Visible and legible signage, using large print and contrasting colors,

 Accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at pedestrian crossings,

 Audio beacons to identify important points of interest,

Audio dubbing of visual information, in particular announcements in public transport,

Tactile guide paths for orientation in large spaces,

Detectable warning surfaces to alert to a danger such as stairs, public transit platforms or pedestrian crossings,

Continuous handrails, contrasting risers and stair nosings to use the stairs safely,

Tactile signs with Braille and raised print in the elevators,

Maps using high-contrasting colors, large print and Braille and raised indications,

Homogeneous and glare-free lighting,

High-contrasting colors and different floor coverings to structure the space,

Staff trained in welcoming people with visual disabilities,

Digital services that meet accessibility standards.

Several degrees of visual impairment

Because sight is a complex sense, for which many functions are involved, there are as many ways of seeing poorly as there are people with low vision.

Blindness and visual impairment according to the WHO

The WHO distinguishes in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) five categories of visual impairment numbered from I to V. This classification takes into account the visual acuity with the best possible correction in the better eye and the visual field of the person.

In the United States, there are approximately 12 million people 40 years and over who have vision impairment, including:

1 million who are blind,

3 million who have vision impairment after correction, and

8 million who have vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error.

81% of people affected by blindness or moderate or severe visual impairment are over 50 years old.

4 forms of visual impairment

There are also four main types of visual impairment, which have varying impacts on daily life. Sometimes these forms can be combined.

Central vision loss

The central part of the retina concentrates the cells responsible for visual acuity. It allows the vision of shapes and colors, but especially details.

People with central vision impairment have difficulty reading, writing and performing precision work. Face recognition also becomes tricky. On the other hand, they retain the perception of space and movement, which generally allows them to move around without assistance.

Peripheral vision loss

In people with impaired peripheral vision, the visual field narrows. This is also known as “tunnel vision”. Central visual acuity is preserved but vision is limited to what is just around the eyes’ visual point of fixation.

This type of visual impairment is often puzzling for those around you. Indeed, people with impaired peripheral vision may be able to read the fine print of a newspaper but the next moment bump into a pole, no matter how colorful. They have no global perception of their environment and are unable to follow a moving object. This type of visual impairment is very disabling to navigate independently.

Blurry vision

This type of visual impairment is like looking through frosted glass. The luminosity diffuses and makes the contours of objects imprecise. People with blurry vision only perceive vague shapes, which makes contrast, depth and distances difficult to appreciate. The light, especially when it is bright, can become unbearable.

These people are particularly embarrassed for reading, writing and precision work. But they also have great difficulty to navigate, because it is impossible for them to assess the danger and find their way around.

Visual disorders following brain injuries

Visual disturbances caused by trauma or brain damage are varied and often associated with other disturbances such as attention, memory or behavioral problems.

In most visual disorders following brain injuries, it is not the visual function itself that is impaired, but the ability of the brain to analyze information. 

Many causes of visual disability

Visual impairment can appear at any age of life, due to a harmless birth defect, an illness or an accident.

Worldwide, more than 80% of visual impairments are preventable or curable. This means that better access to hygiene and medical care, especially in developing countries, would greatly contribute to reducing the number of blind or visually impaired people.

In Western countries, the main causes of visual impairment in the elderly are cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes.

Some genetic diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or Leber’s optic neuropathy can appear in childhood.

Low vision or blindness are also sometimes caused by a malformation of the eyes, oxygen deprivation at birth or an accident during life. Optic nerve damage is irreversible.

In low-and middle-income countries, infectious diseases, myopia and cataracts are among the main causes of visual impairment.

In conclusion, keep in mind that visual impairment takes various forms. Not all people carrying a white cane are plunged into darkness. If you are in charge of the development of a public space or a building, keep in mind that lighting, visual contrast, detectable, tactile and sound cues are essential for the independence of blind or visually impaired people. Their number is expected to double by 2050, it is important to act now.

Find more information about accessibility for people with a visual impairment:

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Published on February 18th, 2022

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A blind pedestrian is walking towards a staircase

Blind people resort to the use of their valid senses: hearing, touch, smell, but also the echolocation, cold drafts, temperature differences, etc. People who have low vision act a little differently in that they maximize their visual potential.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

A builder is securing stairs installing contrasting and non-slip stair nosing

8 Clichés on Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired People

 

What do people with a visual impairment need? Why are accessibility regulations so strict regarding visual and tactile contrasts, fall prevention and signage? You’ll discover in this article a few answers to give meaning to your accessibility projects. Let’s not forget that beyond being ADA-compliant, what’s really at stake is the inclusion of people with disabilities!

1 – There are no visually impaired people in my city

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have a visual impairment, including 1 million who are blind. That’s a lot of people! Actually, this could be the number of inhabitants of Chicago! This means some of them are more likely to live next to yours. 

People are considered to be visually impaired below a certain limit: a visual acuity inferior to 4/10. According to WHO, their number should double by 2050.

Other causes can also put us in a temporary state of visual impairment: loss of glasses, eye operation, blackout, blinding sunlight…

2 – Blind people can’t see at all

Indeed, completely blind people don’t have any visual perception, not even light perception. People who are profoundly visually impaired are considered to be blind as long as their visual acuity is inferior to 1/20 or their visual field is of 10°. 

The visual capabilities of some people aren’t enough to be exploited. On the whole, they have the same needs as completely blind people but their perception of light, certain shapes or colors could occasionally help them. The right visual contrast and good quality lighting will be quite useful.

So don’t be surprised if a blind person asks you to turn on the lights!

3 – Whether they’re blind or visually impaired, people with a visual impairment all have the same needs

Just like any category of people, visually impaired people are all different. Every one of them has their own abilities, experiences, assets and weaknesses.

Despite everything, there are fortunately common points. 

Whatever their level of visual impairment may be, blind and visually impaired people like tactile, detectable and audio indicators.

Those with a bit of vision left are in addition more sensitive to quality lightning, appropriate visual contrasts and an understandable signage system. 

4 – My stairs don’t need to be accessible since there’s an elevator within my venue

Unless they also have a motor impairment or they’re particularly weighed down, a visually impaired person usually prefers to take the stairs. They save time. Plus taking the stairs enables them to have a better representation of their surroundings.

For them to use them with safety, think of implementing detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight, contrasting and non-slip stair nosing and high-contrasting risers at the top and bottom!

5 – My venue is accessible for blind people: I’ve put up Braille signs on all the doors

It’s really a good thing to have implemented this! But have you considered how a blind person would go to the door? And how would they find the Braille sign if they don’t know there’s one?

Leaving aside the fact that there aren’t many blind people who can read Braille. However, those who can will appreciate a lot to be able to confirm their destination by reading a door sign. Quite useful in large school halls, colleges or hospitals for example.

But for them and all the other visually impaired to go to these doors and find their bearings, consider accessibility issues right from the building entrance! Tactile guide paths, audio beacons, an understandable signage system with visual contrast, indoor navigation app…, all these solutions mix to provide an effective accessibility. 

6 – In the United States, there aren’t a lot of accessible pedestrian signals

According to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) are mandatory at newly constructed or reconstructed intersections. This means that a lot of existing intersections may not have APS. 

Indeed, they can be installed upon request along a specific route used by blind and visually impaired people, a route that leads to a school for blind people for example. 

Recently, New York City has been under the spotlight for its lack of APS. A federal judge has ordered the city to install more than 9,000 accessible pedestrian signals at intersections. They’re essential for blind and visually impaired people to cross the street safely and to fully enjoy everything the city has to offer!

7 – There’s no need to install accessible pedestrian signals at calm neighborhoods because they pose no danger

For sure, it’s best to start with very busy or complex intersections in order to prioritize the installation of APS. But for a visually impaired person, slow traffic can be as unsettling as busy traffic. 

Indeed, blind and visually impaired people rely a lot on traffic flows and their hustle and bustle to find their bearings, determine their path, locate the pedestrian crossings and know when to cross. 

When traffic is too rare, accessible pedestrian signals are essential to make up for the missing landmarks.

8 – No need to have APS, guide dogs know by themselves when to cross the street

For a start, visually impaired people don’t all have guide dogs. According to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, only 2% of blind and visually impaired people work with guide dogs. 

Moreover, guide dogs can’t read signs and they can’t interpret the WALK sign of traffic lights. It’s always their owner who orders them to cross the street after analyzing the situation (traffic noises, accessible pedestrian signals indications…).

However, guide dogs lead their owner towards the pedestrian crossing and until the other sidewalk. And they bypass obstacles.

Want to implement the appropriate solutions for blind and visually people? Check out our articles:

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Street?

Removing Traffic Lights vs Pedestrian Safety: a Guide to Inclusive Streets

Published on February 4th, 2022

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Accessible stairs for the visually impaired with detectable warning surfaces, handrails and contrasting non-slip stair nosing

Whatever their level of visual impairment may be, blind and visually impaired people like tactile, detectable and audio indicators.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

People with intellectual disabilities walking in the streets

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

Intellectual disability, sometimes called mental retardation, affects 1 to 3% of the global population, which represents approximately 6.5 million people in the United States. Who are they? What are their needs? How can we facilitate their participation in society?

We will see in this article that intellectual disability covers a wide variety of profiles, causes and manifestations. And the good news is that all the improvements made for accessibility to other disabilities also benefit people with intellectual disabilities. Which ones in particular? This is what you will find out.

Intellectual disability, mental retardation, what does it mean?

The terms “intellectual disability” and “mental retardation” both refer to a slower than average intellectual development. To be more precise, intellectual disability is the consequence of disorders of intellectual development in interaction with the barriers of the environment.

People with intellectual disabilities face difficulties in two areas:

Intellectual functioning, measured by intelligence quotient (IQ), which includes learning, reasoning, decision-making and problem-solving skills;

Adaptive behaviors, essential for daily life, which involve communication and interactions with others, but also the ability to take care of oneself.

Intellectual disability starts in childhood and is generally stable throughout life. No treatment is available to cure it. However, the consequences of an intellectual disability can be alleviated with specialized support and a suitable environment.

Not to be confused with mental illness or psychological disability! The pathologies at the origin of a psychological disability do not directly affect intellectual capacities but only the ability to mobilize them. However, it is not uncommon for an intellectual disability to be associated with a psychological disability or mental illness. This is particularly the case in 75% of autism spectrum disorders. In addition, people with an intellectual disability are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop a psychological disability than the overall population.

8 Clichés About Intellectual Disability

7 Clichés About Psychiatric Disability

What accessibility facilities for the intellectual disability?

Like all other disabilities, intellectual disability manifests itself in various forms and to varying degrees. The difficulties commonly encountered in the urban environment concern:

Reading and understanding,

Spatial awareness,

Time awareness,

Decision making,

Communication.

In order to improve access to the environment and to services for people with intellectual disabilities, the following recommendations should be applied:

Signage using colors, symbols and pictograms, 

Staff trained in welcoming people with mental disabilities,

Audio dubbing of visual information, in particular transport announcements,

Simplified maps with photos of the main destinations,

“Easy-to-read-and-understand” information,,

Learning workshops on transport networks,

Mobile applications for orientation, to facilitate communication, to reduce stress, to learn social interactions, etc.

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Tactile paths, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and audio beacons, originally designed for the visually impaired, are also very useful for people with intellectual disabilities. Indeed, soliciting several senses stimulates understanding.

Several degrees of intellectual disability

We speak of intellectual disability from an intelligence quotient lower than 70. As a reminder, the average intelligence quotient in the overall population is 100, the vast majority being between 85 and 115. The IQ does not however reflect the functioning in the environment. This is why the diagnosis of intellectual disability cannot be limited to an IQ test. It must also take into account the capacities of communication and adaptation in the environment.

Many forms of this type of disability are associated with psychological, motor or sensory disorders. These can in some cases complicate the diagnosis and capacity assessment. For example, the evaluation of the intelligence quotient in a deafblind person is almost impossible due to the inadequacy of the testing tools.

85% of people with intellectual disabilities are affected by a mild form. If they benefit from appropriate support in childhood, they are perfectly capable of living independently in adulthood.

The World Health Organization (WHO) distinguishes in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) six classes of mental retardation, from mild to severe, but also non-specific forms.

Note: the 11th edition of the ICD, published in May 2019, updated the terminology concerning intellectual disability. We no longer speak of “mental retardation” but of “disorders of intellectual development”.

Mild intellectual disability

It is characterized by a slight delay in acquiring language and slower development than the average child. Difficulties usually appear during schooling but can be alleviated through appropriate educational methods. Most people with mild intellectual disabilities are able to lead independent lives as adults and work.

IQ, when it can be measured, is between 50 and 69.

Moderate intellectual disability

It concerns 10% of people with intellectual disabilities and is characterized by a very slow development of comprehension and language skills. In most cases, there is also difficulty performing basic activities of daily living such as washing or dressing. Even though children with an average intellectual disability have significant academic difficulties, some of them manage to learn to read, write and count. In adulthood, they are sometimes able to work, provided the tasks are simple and structured.

IQ, when it can be measured, is between 35 and 49.

Severe intellectual disability

It concerns 3 to 4% of people with intellectual disabilities. The difficulties encountered by people with severe intellectual disabilities are much the same as those with moderate intellectual disability, but to a greater degree. Motor impairments and associated disorders are also more common. These people generally need constant assistance in their daily life.

IQ, when it can be measured, is between 20 and 34.

Profound intellectual disability

It concerns 1 to 2% of people with an intellectual disability. It is characterized by an almost total inability to understand. People with a profound intellectual disability are generally unable to move and their communication is limited to a few non-verbal manifestations. They are unable to control their bodily functions and take care of themselves. They must therefore benefit from permanent assistance.

The IQ is then estimated to be less than 20.

A disability with multiple causes

Unlike other forms of disability that can occur at any time in life, intellectual disability begins in childhood, before the age of 18.

It can be caused by a genetic defect, illness or exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation at birth, or certain illnesses or exposures to toxic substances during infancy. Little is known about whooping cough, measles or meningitis can lead to intellectual disability if treatment is delayed. Malnutrition is also a cause of intellectual regression in regions of the world prone to famine.

The three most common causes of mental disability are Down syndrome, 22q11 deletion (otherwise known as DiGeorge syndrome), and exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. There is also a rise in the numbers due to the increase in the number of preterm births.

In more than a third of cases, however, the cause of the intellectual disability remains unknown.

Intellectual disability cannot be treated, but prevention and support measures can limit the consequences.

In conclusion, keep in mind that the vast majority of people with intellectual disabilities live among others. We all therefore have the possibility of helping them to express their full potential by adapting our behavior. If you are responsible for the accessibility of a venue, a transport network or the roads of a municipality, think of all the inexpensive facilities that you can implement to facilitate their orientation and improve their sense of security.

Find out more on accessibility for people with intellectual disabilities with these articles:

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

Published on January 21st, 2022

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A man with Down syndrome and another man smiling

Tactile paths, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and audio beacons, originally designed for the visually impaired, are also very useful for people with intellectual disabilities.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

A smartphone screen with apps for people with intellectual disabilities

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

People with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome have an intellectual development that’s inferior to the population average and learning difficulties. This means they have trouble conceptualizing, thinking, making decisions and communicating with others. 

In order to better communicate, easily make decisions or even to stay organized, they can rely on numerous apps. Plus, they enable them to remain autonomous and to challenge themselves at their own pace.

Let’s have a closer look at 5 must-have apps for people with intellectual disabilities!

Cozi Family Organizer

A great app to stay in sync with your family! You can set reminders for yourself or any of the family members. This can be helpful for those who need to be driven to medical appointments or work. 

Plus the calendar is easy to use and to comprehend.

You can also create all kinds of to-do lists to make sure all your everyday tasks are organized and set up a meal planner!

Available on Android and iOS

Evernote

Another great app to help you stay organized! With Evernote, you can create to-do lists, capture photos, record voice reminders or simply take notes. And your notes can be searchable. 

Find what suits you best and make sure you don’t miss any events!

Available on Android and iOS

Evelity

An indoor navigation app to help you find your bearings in complex venues. The app perfectly adapts to the user profile and provides optimized routes with easy-to-read and easy-to-understand instructions. 

You can also preview your itinerary to be more familiar with it. 

Besides, its simplified interface makes it easy for you to use. 

Evelity is currently being tested at the Jay Street-MetroTech subway station in New York but it’s also deployed in other sites in France, its country of origin: the whole metro network in the city of Marseilles, the Luma museum in Arles and the medical university campus Rockefeller in Lyon.

Available on Android and iOS

Breathe2Relax

We can all feel stressed from time to time or tiring by our environment. Breathe2Relax teaches breathing techniques to remain calm and serene. 

It helps people with anxiety to relieve their stress.

Available on Android and iOS

Red Panic Button

If at some point you need help, you can hit the Red Panic Button! First when setting this app up, you need to list your contacts who’ll serve as your emergency contacts. People you are comfortable with and can rely on.

When you’re in trouble, the app sends them a SMS containing a Google Maps link with your location.

Available on Android and iOS

Be careful of what you’re being promised

You may have found in your research countless brain-trainings apps to improve your memory and problem solving skills. However, there’s little scientific evidence that demonstrates their effectiveness. Much more research is needed.

For now, it looks like these apps don’t have the power to sharpen your cognitive abilities or prevent any mental decline for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. But if you feel like trying, a lot of these apps can be both free and entertaining such as Peak, Elevate or Lumosity.

You now have 5 great apps at your fingertips to make your everyday life easier! 

Want to know more about people with intellectual disabilities? Check out our articles:

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

Public Transport: Accessibility Solutions, Also for the Intellectual Disability!

Published on January 7th, 2022

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A person is using Evelity on the subway. They're on an escalator.

An indoor navigation app to help you find your bearings in complex venues. Evelity perfectly adapts to the user profile and provides optimized routes with easy-to-read and easy-to-understand instructions.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

A person using an electric wheelchair is getting around in the streets

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

 

Usually, when we think about physical disabilities, we visualize a wheelchair pictogram related to wheelchair users. But physical disabilities also concern people with reduced mobility and reduced dexterity. This means that a person using a walking cane and a person who struggles picking up a bottle of water both have physical impairments even though their situations are very different.

According to their capabilities, people with physical disabilities may find it difficult to wander in their city, use public transportation and go to a museum or a shopping mall. They need to count on accessibility and on a seamless mobility chain to be able to fully enjoy everything they want to. 

Fortunately, the solutions that meet the needs of people with physical disabilities can suit every of their profile. But first, let’s figure out what physical disabilities entail! 

What are the types of physical disabilities?

Basically, people with physical disabilities find it more difficult to get around or to perform manual tasks like walking, standing up, sitting, raising an arm and closing their fingers.

For some people, a physical impairment affects their legs or arms. For others, it will impact their whole body. Plus for others, it will manifest into a speech impairment without compromising their ability to understand.

Depending on the case, physical disabilities can be permanent, long-term or temporary. For example, if you go skiing in Aspen and unfortunately have an accident and end up with a broken leg then you may need to use crutches to walk while recovering. Even if this situation is just temporary, seeing that your bones need time to heal (unless you’re Harry Potter), this means you may struggle to get around, to go to work or to use public transportation.

This type of accident is frequent and can happen to anyone as we don’t need to go skiing to break a leg. The same holds true for very bad car accidents resulting in severe physical disabilities. But there are also a lot of genetic disorders and common diseases that result in physical disabilities:

Arthritis,

Heart diseases,

Respiratory disorders,

Epilepsy,

Multiple sclerosis,

Spinal cord injuries,

Spina bifida,

Cerebral palsy,

Carpal tunnel syndrome,

Parkinson’s disease…

As you can see, physical disabilities cover a multitude of diseases and genetic disorders. Another category worth mentioning that could turn into a series of articles is dwarfism. 

We will not linger on dwarfism here but we’ll simply tell you some basic facts:

The appropriate terms you can use are “people with dwarfism”, “Little People”, “LP”, “people of short stature” and “people with a form of dwarfism” but you can let them tell you what they prefer,

If you need to use the plural form of “dwarf”, you should choose “dwarfs” as “dwarves” makes a reference to the characters created in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,

There are around 200 types of dwarfism,

Dwarfism doesn’t link to intellectual disabilities.

Around 30,000 people have dwarfism in the USA. Although a lot of them think dwarfism is not a disability, they’re indeed protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s to be noted that some genetic disorders cause physical and intellectual disabilities such as Angelman syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome. Thus, people can have additional disabilities in some cases meaning that we need to take into account all of their needs.

If using a cane or a wheelchair to get around are signs that people have physical disabilities, there are situations where their disabilities are less visible and therefore less obvious. Check out our article: Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

After World War II, a lot of soldiers came back to the U.S. with mild or severe physical disabilities raising the issue of accessibility. The whole country had to adapt to meet the needs of war veterans and truly welcome them home.

What solutions enhance accessibility for people with physical disabilities?

Here, we’ll just focus on three main areas where accessibility for people with physical disabilities takes place: public highways, public transit systems and public venues. All of them are covered by the ADA preventing any form of discrimination against people with disabilities. 

Wherever people with physical disabilities go, they need to rely on a seamless mobility chain. That is to say that to go from point A to point C, point B needs to be accessible. All the links of the mobility chain need to be accessible for people with physical disabilities to have a smooth trip. Actually, this concerns everybody, not just people with disabilities.

Let’s see what solutions you can easily implement!

Accessible public highways

As urban planner or city maker, you need to make sure the city is safe and accessible to explore for people with physical disabilities:

Large sidewalks for wheelchair users,

Lowered curbs,

Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility (PRM),

Pushbuttons for traffic lights that are easy to use and accessible for wheelchair users,

Obstacle-free routes,

Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs for people with reduced mobility,

Accessible street furniture like benches,

Clear and readable signage for wheelchair users.

You can know more about making the city more accessible to people with physical disabilities thanks to these articles:

Urban Mobility of the Most Vulnerable: 5 Minutes to Understand

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying Out Street Works?

If you’re concerned about the safety of your most vulnerable pedestrians, you may have an interest in the Vision Zero movement. It aims at reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads. 

Different measures can help you make sure pedestrians with physical disabilities remain safe:

Reducing speed limits,

Improving lighting at crossings,

Regulating the traffic of alternative modes such as electric scooters, skateboards…

Cities like New York and Chicago have already implemented them and have seen significant changes in road safety. 

Plus, working side by side with people with physical disabilities and associations advocating for them represents the best way for you to meet their needs. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to fully be ADA-compliant and to make the city more accessible and comfortable for them. 

Accessible public transit systems

Subways, bus stations, train stations…, how can your public transit system be accessible to passengers with physical disabilities? 

Access ramps,

Elevators,

Escalators,

Large doors,

Secured stairs,

Clear and readable signage for wheelchair users,

Real-time information that’s easily readable for wheelchair users,

Lowered counters for wheelchair users to buy a ticket,

Lowered vending machines,

Dedicated airlocks for wheelchair users to go through the turnstiles,

Lowered validity ticket control,

Contactless validation,

Indoor wayfinding app like Evelity for passengers with physical disabilities to easily find their bearings inside a complex station. Evelity is currently being tested at the Jay Street-MetroTech station at the New York City subway.

Accessible seatings aboard trains and buses,

Dedicated spaces for wheelchair users aboard trains and buses,

Lowered stop buttons for wheelchair users,

Visual and audio information about the stops so that riders with reduced mobility know when they need to prepare to get off the train or the bus.

But having an accessible public transportation system is much more than putting up accessible equipment or solutions. It also means focusing on trained personnel to deal with passengers with disabilities. Riders with physical disabilities may be more or less autonomous which means they may need to rely on your staff members for assistance. Your staff members have a key role to play in making sure users are safe and satisfied. If they’ve had a good experience, they’re more likely to come back and use your services again!

Check out our articles on accessibility in public transport:

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

Accessible public venues

Whether you manage a small restaurant or a shopping mall, you need to make sure people with physical disabilities can access your building and all the services your place provides.

PRM parking spaces,

Access ramps,

Elevators,

Escalators,

Large doors,

Secured stairs,

Large aisles, 

Clear and readable signage for wheelchair users,

Lowered counters,

Accessible seating places,

Accessible restrooms,

Indoor wayfinding app like Evelity if your venue is complex.

You’ll find more detailed information in this article:

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for People with Physical Disabilities at Public Venues

Keep in mind that here you need to rely on your personnel to provide the perfect quality service to your customers with physical disabilities. A genuine smile can make all the difference! We recommend you and your staff to offer your help but be careful not to impose it. Simply ask your customers with physical disabilities if they need assistance. Some prefer to remain autonomous and others may need extra help but they’ll tell you how to best help them.

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with Physical Disability

Bringing comfort to people with physical and intellectual disabilities

As we saw earlier, some people may have both physical and intellectual disabilities. Even though in this article we mostly focus on physical disabilities, there are of course solutions that can help those who also have intellectual disabilities.

And you can easily set them up in the three areas mentioned above:

Universal pictograms,

Easy-to-read and easy-to-understand information,

Indoor wayfinding app like Evelity,

Secured stairs.

Once again, training your personnel in providing customers with physical and intellectual disabilities with the best possible service will add value to your establishment or transport network.

They just need to remain calm, be natural and speak using easy-to-understand words. Most of all, your personnel need to be patient and have empathy towards your customers. It’s not because they have disabilities that they should be infantilized. On the contrary, you should speak to them as you would anybody.

You and your personnel need to create a safe environment for them to be comfortable enough and feel welcomed.

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

Although there are a multitude of physical disabilities that cause people to have different needs and mobility issues, a lot of existing solutions help them have access to any place and any services. It’s up to you to implement these! 

Published on December 24th, 2021

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An employee ready to welcome customers with intellectual disabilities

Keep in mind that here you need to rely on your personnel to provide the perfect quality service to your customers with physical disabilities. A genuine smile can make all the difference!

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

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Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.