New Study Reveals Significant Disparities in Status for New Yorkers with Disabilities (CID NY and NH UCEDD)

August 12, 2015

ADA at 25: Many Bridges to Cross shows that while people with disabilities celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, we continue to fare worse than people without disabilities in 8 measures of well-being.

New Yorkers with disabilities can celebrate many advances on this 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: bus lifts that allow people to travel the City; reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities working with government employment programs and students sitting for college entrance exams. There have been recent court decisions requiring access to polling sites on Election Day, and requiring the city to meet the needs of people with disabilities during emergencies and disasters. 

However, a report from the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) reveals that New Yorkers with disabilities do significantly less well in many aspects of their lives than their non-disabled peers.  ADA at 25: Many Bridges to Cross looks at 8 indicators of well-being and the outlook is not good for people with disabilities living in New York City. 

Susan Dooha, CIDNY's Executive Director and the report's author, says, "This report identifies the gross disparities that persist for people with disabilities. It gives us a road map for action. The fact that New Yorkers with disabilities are significantly worse off than their non-disabled counterparts and their peers with disabilities in New York State and nationally should be a catalyst for advocates and policy makers. We should not wait another 25 years to realize the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

The report presents a detailed picture and reveals areas needing remedies:

Education - In New York City, there is a 17.1 percent high school education gap and a 16.4 percent college education. These gaps are wider than the gaps at New York State or national levels. The education gap widens at the college level.

Employment - In New York City, there is an employment rate gap of 41.2 percent between people with and without disabilities. While educational achievement gaps contribute to employment rates disparity, persistent employment discrimination, lack of reasonable accommodation, and varying employment rates for people with disabilities by "severity" of disability, and other indicators all contribute to the gap.

Income and Poverty - Income is lower for people with disabilities in New York City than at the State or national level. Manhattan has the widest income gap between people with and without disabilities at $40,192. People with disabilities in New York City have a poverty rate (36.5%) more than double that of their peers without disabilities (16.6%).

Health Coverage and Access - In New York City, people with disabilities have a higher coverage rate (89.3%) than their non-disabled counterparts (79.4%). However, people with disabilities have a lower rate of coverage by private insurance (39.2%) than people without disabilities (77.3%), which may reflect discrimination in benefit design or network design in private insurance.

Food - People with disabilities are more reliant on SNAP than people without disabilities. In New York City, working people with disabilities are 8.7 percent more reliant on SNAP to make ends meet than are people without disabilities. This gap is wider in New York City than at the State or national level.

Housing - People with disabilities are more likely to be homeless or insecurely housed than are people with disabilities because they are unable to afford their rent and cannot find accessible housing. In New York City, people with disabilities are 9.3 percent more likely to pay more than 50 percent of their income for rent.

Marriage & Family - The ability to marry and form a family is an indicator that affects social ties, health, well-being, and economic status. Historically, marriage and procreation were restricted for people with some disabilities, and we still see the impact. In New York City, people with disabilities are less likely to be married with a spouse present (25.2%) than people without disabilities (37.1%), or a "spouse gap" of 11.9 percent.

Transportation - The inaccessibility of the New York City subway system has resulted in a transportation gap. People with disabilities are much less likely to use the subway (34.9%) than people without disabilities (41.8%). According to the MTA website, only 86 of the 468 subway stations (18%) in the five boroughs have elevators and are accessible to persons who use wheelchairs. And, a lack of or inadequacy of curb cuts impedes sidewalk access for many people with disabilities who are less likely to walk to work.

ADA at 25 recommends that the City and State:

  • Reduce disparities in educational attainment at the high school and college levels. Eliminate access barriers and provide services that enable students to succeed. Emphasize higher education for students with disabilities. Teach educators and students about disability rights.
  • Narrow the economic gaps between people with disabilities and people without disabilities in employment, earnings and poverty rate. Government can use economic development and purchasing power to achieve better employment outcomes. It must raise the minimum wage.
  • Expand access to fresh food for low-income communities and make these options accessible for people with all disabilities. Eliminate barriers to pantries, soup kitchens, food shops and green markets that make them unusable or difficult to use for people with disabilities.
  • Increase the availability of integrated accessible housing options for people with disabilities who have extremely low incomes and who are now severely rent burdened and at risk of homelessness.
  • Decrease barriers to public and private insurance and increase network adequacy so that people with disabilities are ensured adequate insurance products and health outcomes. Health care clinics must come into compliance with the ADA.
  • Scrutinize legislative initiatives and administrative procedures to ensure that government policies do not encourage discrimination against people with disabilities by impeding marriage.
  • The MTA must make accessibility of the subway system a priority to cure existing discrimination by repairing the elevators, marking the platforms, and undertaking other improvements to make existing "accessible stations" workable. The City of New York should address inaccessibility of sidewalk crossings that contribute to health disparities and increase the dangers to pedestrians with disabilities.

The data for ADA at 25: Many Bridges to Cross was prepared for CIDNY by Debra Brucker, Ph.D. and Nicholas Rollins, M.S. of the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability. The disability statistics presented in this report are based on the 2012 5-year public-release American Community Survey data file.

The report is available at or by contacting CIDNY at 212-674-2300.