Data Analysis

Data Analysis

This section contains a summary of the disability survey data. It is divided into three sections:

  • Disability Information and Travel Outside the Home
  • Local and Long-Distance Personal Travel, and
  • Personal Motor Vehicle Ownership and Use.

Detailed data tables showing weighted percents and standard errors for disabled and nondisabled individuals are contained in the Appendix. The purpose of this Data Analysis section is to provide broad data findings based on a distinction between the disabled and nondisabled groups, as classified by the Census definition. Other factors, such as the specific type of disability (e.g., vision, hearing, or physical disability), age, and severity, are not explored in this report.

Disability Information and Travel Outside the Home

According to the 2000 decennial census, approximately 49.5 million people (19 percent) of the U.S. resident (noninstitutionalized) population aged 5 years or older have a disability (see figure 1).1 The disability prevalence rate among children under the age of 5 years is approximately 3 percent.2

Frequency of Travel Outside the Home

There are 3.5 million people in this country who never leave their homes – a national homebound percentage of over one percent (see figure 2 and appendix table 1, table 2, table 3, table 4, table 5, table 6, table 7, table 8 and table 9.). More than half of the homebound, 1.9 million, are people with disabilities. Overall, the majority of people with disabilities (62 percent) and those without disabilities (88 percent) leave the home five to seven days a week. People with disabilities who never leave home tend to be older (average age 66) and have more severe disabilities (58 percent report their disability as severe) than the disabled who leave home at least one day per week (average age 50, and 22 percent reporting severe disabilities). More people with disabilities who never leave home need specialized assistance or equipment to travel outside the home (57 percent) than do those who leave home at least once a week (22 percent). And people with disabilities who never leave home also have more difficulty getting transportation (29 percent) than those who leave home once a week or more (11 percent). Of those people with disabilities who leave the home the most – five to seven days per week – 14 percent need assistance to travel outside the home, and 8 percent have problems getting the transportation they need.

Specialized Assistance Traveling Outside the Home

About 23 percent of individuals with disabilities need some sort of specialized assistance or equipment to travel outside the home (see appendix table 10 and table 11). The most frequently cited types of assistance needed are:

  • cane, crutches, or walker – 48 percent
  • assistance from another person while outside the home – 33 percent
  • manual wheelchair – 22 percent
  • assistance from another person while inside the home – 16 percent
  • electric scooter or wheelchair – 10 percent
  • oxygen – 8 percent

Difficulties Getting Needed Transportation

Twelve percent of people with disabilities have difficulty getting the transportation they need, compared to three percent of persons without disabilities (see appendix table 10 and table 12). The problems most frequently cited by individuals with disabilities are:

  • no or limited public transportation – 33 percent
  • don't have a car – 26 percent
  • disability makes transportation hard to use – 17 percent
  • no one to depend on – 12 percent

Of the nondisabled who have difficulty getting the transportation they need, the reason cited most often is no or limited public transportation – 47 percent.

Local and Long-Distance Personal Travel

Local Travel and Mode Choice

People use multiple modes of transportation for local travel. About 62 percent of people with disabilities who are 15 years or older, and about 86 percent of the nondisabled who are 15 years or older, drove motor vehicles in the month prior to the interview for local travel – to work, shopping, doctor and other medical appointments, and for other purposes (see figure 3 and appendix table 13). Seventy-seven percent of those with disabilities and 82 percent of the nondisabled rode in a personal motor vehicle as a passenger for local travel.

Forty-seven percent of people with disabilities walked (which, in this survey, includes use of a nonmotorized wheelchair or scooter) for local travel during the month prior to the interview, compared to 58 percent of nondisabled persons. Similarly, a higher percentage of nondisabled respondents, 33 percent, rode bicycles or other pedal cycles compared to 18 percent of disabled persons.

A greater proportion of nondisabled persons used carpools or vanpools/group cars or vans (14 percent), school buses (11 percent), and subway/light rail/commuter trains (9 percent) than disabled persons (11 percent, 5 percent, and 6 percent, respectively) for local travel.

Of those transportation means typically provided to assist people with disabilities, only 6 percent used motorized personal transportation, such as electric wheelchairs, scooters or golf carts; 6 percent used paratransit vans or buses sponsored by the public transit authority; and 3 percent used specialized transportation services provided by human services agencies.

However, driver status appears to affect the type of transportation used in the past month (see figure 4 and appendix table 14). More than 96 percent of the disabled and nondisabled who drive, drive a personal motor vehicle for local travel. A greater proportion of the disabled and nondisabled who do not drive use carpools,; the public bus; the subway, light rail, or commuter train; and taxicabs than do the disabled and nondisabled who drive (figure 4).

Trip Purpose

Although both disabled and nondisabled workers most often use personal motor vehicles to commute to paid or volunteer work, more workers with disabilities ride as passengers (15 percent) than do nondisabled workers (6 percent), while more nondisabled individuals drive (85 percent) than do disabled individuals (66 percent) (see figure 5 and appendix table 15 and table 16).

Motor vehicles and school buses serve as the primary transportation mode for commuting to school for both the disabled and nondisabled. About one-quarter of both disabled and nondisabled students ride a school bus, and another quarter drive a motor vehicle to school most frequently. However, 36 percent of the nondisabled students ride as a passenger in a personal motor vehicle compared to 21 percent of the students with disabilities.

Most of the disabled and nondisabled most frequently use motor vehicles, either as a driver or passenger, for transportation to the doctor and other medical visits and for other local travel, such as shopping and recreation. About 2 to 3 percent of both disabled and nondisabled use a public bus for these trips.

Transportation Availability

To some degree, transportation services are generally available to the disabled and nondisabled from their homes (see figure 6 and appendix table 17). For both groups, more than 50 percent live near a sidewalk or path, almost 60 percent have public paratransit available in the area, and over three-quarters have taxi service. About 25 percent live within 5 miles of a subway/light rail/commuter train station. Slightly more of the people with disabilities (47 percent) live within one-quarter mile of a bus stop than do the nondisabled (42 percent).

Transportation Use

The majority of disabled and nondisabled bus riders and subway, light rail, and commuter train users use the transportation service two or fewer days per week for local travel, as do paratransit riders3 (see figure 7 and appendix table 18 and table 19). However, more of those with disabilities (42 percent) use the bus three or more days per week than do the nondisabled (28 percent). When using a bus; subway, light rail, and commuter train; or paratransit service, most riders take one or two one-way trips. More than 90 percent of disabled and nondisabled public bus users; more than 88 percent of disabled and nondisabled subway, light rail, and commuter train users; and 95 percent of disabled paratransit users take one or two one-way trips (see appendix table 20 and table 21).

Transportation Problems

Of those who walk, bike, use paratransit, buses, or subways, fewer than half of both disabled and nondisabled transportation users experience problems as pedestrians, as cyclists, on buses, while using paratransit or at bus stops or at subway, light rail, or commuter train stations (see figure 8 and appendix table 22, table 23, table 24, table 25 and table 26.). A higher percentage of disabled walkers (49 percent) experienced problems than do nondisabled walkers (37 percent).

Disabled and nondisabled transportation users cited similar problems. When walking and biking, the most frequently cited problems were insensitive drivers, too few/missing sidewalks/paths, and surface problems (potholes/cracks). The primary problem for bus and paratransit riders was schedules not being kept. On buses and on subways, light rails, and commuter trains, crowded/inadequate seating was cited by both disabled and nondisabled riders. Insensitive or unaware passengers were also a problem for both groups of riders.

Long-Distance Travel

Proportionally, fewer people with disabilities (60 percent) than without (76 percent) travel long distances (100 miles or more) (see appendix table 27). The two most frequently used modes of transportation for long-distance travel for both groups are personal motor vehicles (as either passenger or driver) and commercial airlines (see figure 9 and appendix table 28). Five percent or fewer of disabled and nondisabled respondents used other modes such as intercity bus (about 3 percent), private bus (almost 4 percent), and Amtrak/intercity rail (almost 4 percent).

Approximately 55 percent of air travelers with disabilities experience problems at airports compared to 45 percent of nondisabled air travelers (see appendix table 29). Although cited as problems the most frequently by both disabled and nondisabled air travelers, schedules not being kept and restrictive security procedures were cited as problems by more of the nondisabled air travelers (38 percent and 49 percent, respectively) as compared to the disabled air travelers (25 percent and 34 percent, respectively) (see appendix table 30). Less than one-third of disabled and nondisabled persons experience problems on airplanes (see appendix table 29). Inadequate seating on airplanes was cited by more than half of the disabled and nondisabled air-travelers the most frequently (see appendix table 31).

Personal Motor Vehicle Ownership and Use

Personal Motor Vehicle Usage

About 65 percent of people with disabilities drive a car or other motor vehicle compared with 88 percent of nondisabled persons. On average, disabled drivers drive 5 days per week compared with 6 days per week for nondisabled drivers (see appendix table 32 and table 33).

Thirteen percent of those with disabilities live in households that do not own or lease any vehicle, 66 percent live in households that own or lease one or two vehicles, and 21 percent live inhouseholds that own or lease three or more vehicles. Among the non-disabled, only 4 percent live in households that do not own or lease any vehicles, 62 percent live in households that own or lease one or two vehicles, and 34 percent live in households that own or lease three or more vehicles. Of the 87 percent of the disabled that live in households with at least one vehicle, 2 percent own or lease a vehicle modified with adaptive devices or equipment (see appendix table 34, table 35 and table 36).

Self-Imposed Limitations to Driving

People sometimes limit their driving in different ways. More drivers with disabilities impose limitations on their driving than do nondisabled drivers (see figure 10 and appendix table 37 and table 38). Other factors, such as age, also influence the decision to impose restrictions. For example, 74 percent of the disabled drivers age 75 or older and 54 percent of the nondisabled drivers age 75 or older avoid driving at night compared to 34 percent of disabled drivers and 21 percent of nondisabled drivers, age 25 to 34.

Driving Ability Perceptions

The survey sought to determine if a person's perception of his or her driving ability as it relates to certain physical characteristics has changed from 5 years ago. Although the majority of both disabled and nondisabled drivers indicate that their capabilities are the same as they were 5 years ago, a higher proportion of disabled drivers indicate their capabilities in all categories – eyesight/night vision, attention span, hearing, coordination, reaction time to brake or swerve, and depth perception – are worse than 5 years ago (see figure 11 and figure 12 and appendix table 39). Of particular note, 40 percent of disabled drivers compared to 28 percent of nondisabled drivers said their eyesight/night vision had declined. For the remaining categories, the percentages of drivers with a perception of declining capabilities range between 12 and 21 percent for drivers with disabilities, but only from 4 to 7 percent for nondisabled drivers. Again, these comparisons do not consider other factors such as disability type or age.

Considerations to Discontinue Driving

At some point, people may decide to give up operating a motor vehicle under certain circumstances. Approximately one-third of both disabled and nondisabled drivers indicate they would consider giving up driving if any of the following occurs:

  • they feel they cannot operate a motor vehicle safely,
  • their eyesight declines, or
  • they experience other physical limitations.

A higher percentage of nondisabled drivers than disabled drivers indicate they would give up driving when they reach a certain age (10.2 percent of nondisabled compared to 6.4 percent of disabled) or had some other mental limitation (7.7 of nondisabled compared to 5.3 percent of disabled), while disabled drivers more often indicate they would give up driving if they caused a crash (5.1 percent disabled compared to 2.9 percent non-disabled) (see figure 13 and appendix table 40). Lastly, about 10 percent of both disabled and nondisabled said they never plan to give up driving.

1. U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000. Summary File 3.

2. National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States, 2002. Hyattsville, MD: 2002.

3. Paratransit is defined as service comparable to fixed-route transit for use by people with disabilities who are unable to use the fixed-route system.