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Public Repository to Engage Community and Enhance Design Equity

Physical Disability

A physical disability is any condition that impairs a person’s ability to perform daily physical tasks. Inclusive design should be integrated in all spaces to create welcoming environments for everyone, regardless of physical ability. More accessible spaces may help to improve mental health outcomes and chronic conditions experienced by people with physical disabilities.


Physical disability encompasses a wide range of conditions that affects a person’s physical ability, such as musculoskeletal conditions, spinal injuries, cerebral palsy, limb loss, etc. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 1 in 4 Americans (27%) suffer from some type of disability, with 12.1% of that number suffering from mobility-related disabilities. In 2019, over 3 million children under 18 years old (4.3%) had a disability of some kind. There are differences in childhood disability rates across racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic characteristics, with the highest rates among American Indian and Alaska Native children and children living in poverty.

Human Health Mechanism

Having a physical disability increases one’s risk for other health conditions. Research shows that adults with disabilities are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, and be obese. Furthermore, individuals with disabilities are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. And finally, individuals with disabilities also face barriers to accessing healthcare services, with 25% of adults with disabilities not having a usual healthcare provider and having unmet healthcare needs due to costs.

Indicator Measurement

The American Community Survey (ACS) provides estimates on the percentage of the population with a disability at the state, county, and census tract level. According to the ACS, people are considered to have a disability if they have difficulty with seeing, hearing, concentrating or remembering, walking or climbing stairs, dressing or bathing, and running errands.

Related Health Outcomes & Exposures

Regular Check Up, Lack of Insurance, Obesity, Heart Disease, Diabetes


Click here for References
  1. Physical Disability Data Source: US Census Bureau. ACS: Physical Disability. Data year 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  2. CDC. Disability Impacts All of Us Infographic. Published May 15, 2023. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  3. Konczal E. Physical Disabilities. Published 2022.
  4. Lee Y, Park J, Jang M. Perceived effects of home renovation on independence of physically disabled Koreans living at home. Disabil Rehabil. 2018;40(20):2380-2387. doi:10.1080/09638288.2017.1334837
  5. Perkins&Will. Healthy Schools by Design. Published April 18, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  6. Scott KM, Von Korff M, Alonso J, et al. Mental–physical co-morbidity and its relationship with disability: results from the World Mental Health Surveys. Psychological Medicine. 2009;39(1):33-43. doi:10.1017/S0033291708003188
  7. Tough H, Siegrist J, Fekete C. Social relationships, Mental Health and Wellbeing in Physical disability: a Systematic Review. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4308-6
  8. Young N and Crankshaw K. Disability Rates Highest Among American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Children Living in Poverty. Accessed October 18, 2023.