Survey names Vermont's South Burlington as best city for people with disabilities; big cities fail to find place in Top 10 list
October is observed as the National Disability Employment Awareness Month during which the commitment of challenged individuals who apply their skills and talents at workplace is celebrated. Personal-financed website WalletHub recently released a survey report that ranks American cities -- both in terms of the best and worst -- for people with disabilities, to understand the extent to which the idea is championed across the length and breadth of the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adult Americans (one in every four) have a disability that impacts the major activities they undertake. The number goes up to two in five when those over 65 are taken into consideration. While leading a life of a disabled person could be very expensive, the financial securities are not too bright as the average monthly Social Security disability benefit as of July 2018 was around $1,104. It makes the yearly annual income of $13,244 which is a little more than the federal poverty line for a single individual ($12,490). In 2018, over 5.7 million people with disabilities were employed.
In its survey report, WalletHub compared 182 cities in the country across 33 indicators of disability-friendliness that includes wheelchair-accessible facilities per capita to quality of public hospital system.
South Burlington best city for people with disabilities
The best city for people with disabilities was found to be South Burlington in Vermont. With an economy rank of two and quality of life rank of 32 and health care rank of 53, South Burlington scored 56.64 to top the list. In second place is Scottsdale, Arizona, with a score of 55.37. It was ranked ninth in economy, 24th in healthcare and 43rd in quality of life. Third is St Louis in Missouri with the score same as Scottsdale though it ranked 126th in economy, ninth in quality of life and 14th in healthcare. Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a score of 55.06 and San Francisco, California, 54.10 were in the fourth and fifth positions, respectively.
Top cities fail to make the top 10
One disappointing finding was that none of the top American cities (in terms of population) was found in the top 10 best cities for disabled people. While New York was ranked 18th; Los Angeles was at 38; Chicago was at 39; Houston was at 134; Phoenix at 83; Philadelphia at 28; San Antonio at 46; San Diego at 30; Dallas at 143; San Jose at 94 and Washington DC at 58. The most populated city that made it to the top 10 is San Francisco which is the 14th most populous in the country.
Providence, Rhode Island, is worst city for disabled people
In terms of the worst five, Providence in Rhode Island led with a score of 37.93. Its rank economy-wise is 175, quality of life is 90 and healthcare is 180. Bridgeport in Connecticut was ranked second worst with a score of 37.94 (economy rank of 169, quality of life rank of 140 and healthcare rank of 166). Winston Salem in North Connecticut is ranked thereafter with a score of 38.15 (economy rank of 115, quality of life rank 175 and healthcare rank of 177). New Haven, Connecticut, and Gulfport, Mississippi, are the fourth and fifth worst with scores of 38.41 and 38.64, respectively.
Among other findings that the survey came up with, Huntington in West Virginia has the highest share of people with disabilities living in the area (20.90 percent) which more than three-and-half times more than Irvine, California, the city with the lowest share (5.80 percent).
Rochester, New York, was found to be the city with the highest share of disabled people living in poverty -- 45.32 percent while Pearl City, Hawaii, has the lowest share -- 7.31 percent.
Four cities -- Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, and Montgomery (Alabama) and Shreveport (Louisiana) have the lowest median annual cost of in-home services at $34,320 while Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, have the highest at $73,102.
Laredo also has the lowest cost of a doctor’s visit at $58 which is 3.4 times lower than Alaskan city of Juneau where the cost of a doctor’s visit is $196.
What experts said
“Government assistance offers no opportunity for increasing one’s capital. It barely covers the essentials of life: food, housing and clothes. Indeed, there is a direct correlation between disability and poverty, and modern capitalism has failed to adequately address the challenges facing people with disabilities in acquiring a good education, decent paying employment, affordable health care, and access to enjoyable recreation,” Michael A. Schwartz, Associate Professor of Law, Director, Disability Rights Clinic, Syracuse University, told WalletHub when asked about the unique financial challenges faced by people with disabilities, particularly those who rely on government assistance and how could these challenges be overcome.
Catherine Kudlick, Ph.D. – Professor of History and Director, Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, San Francisco State University, was asked by WalletHub about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was adopted nearly three decades ago and what improvements, if at all, the act should see in the 21st century.
“Better messaging at every level about what the ADA does and what it means would help a lot. Right now, the public only learns about lawyer scams and victimized small businesses; where are the stories about people who get to attend school, work, and participate in civic life thanks to this law? Everyone — from those who park “just for a moment” to the restaurants that store their extra trash bags in front of accessible entrances to employers who pass over someone with a job — need to internalize the message that people with disabilities aren’t just burdens,” she said.