Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Advocacy Update: Census Bureau Not Changing Data on People with Disabilities Based on Public Comments

The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that is not moving ahead with a controversial proposal that would have decreased a “key estimated rate of disability in the United States by about 40 percent.” This reversal comes a few weeks after the bureau reported that most of the over 12,000 public comments received about proposed changes to the annual American Community Survey (ACS) indicated concerns about changing the survey’s questions about disability. “Based on that feedback, we plan to retain the current ACS disability questions for collection year 2025,” according to Census Bureau Director Robert Santos. He noted that the Census Bureau would continue to work with “stakeholders and the public to better understand data needs on disability and assess which, if any, revisions are needed across the federal statistical system to better address those needs.” Currently, the ACS asks participants yes or no questions about whether they have “’serious difficulty’” with hearing, seeing, and other “functional abilities.” A new set of questions would have asked respondents to rate their level of difficulty with specific activities. The proposed change would have counted only the people who responded “’A lot of difficulty’” or “’Cannot do at all,’” leaving out those responding “’Some difficulty.’” Many disabilities advocates contested this approach, citing that “measuring disability based on levels of difficulty with activities is out of date with how many disabled people view their disabilities.” Another concern has been that the revised data could make it more difficult to advocate for resources. Santos indicated that the Bureau welcomes “continuous improvement,” noting that another opportunity will be offered for public feedback before submitting the final proposal for approval by the Office for Management and Budget. Read the complete announcement on the Census Bureau blog on Next Steps on the American Community Survey Disability Questions. For additional background information, read the NPR webpage announcing that The Census Bureau is dropping a controversial proposal to change disability statistics and the USA Today article stating that the Census Bureau backpedals on changes to disabilities questions amid backlash.