For decades, disability policymakers, administrators, researchers, advocates, and people with disabilities themselves have been frustrated with the lack of quality, comprehensible data and statistics about people with disabilities. This frustration has been heightened by the increased aspirations of people with signifcant impairments to utilize medical, technological, and economic advances that allow them to live fulflling lives, and by the corresponding increase in the need for policy and programmatic reforms to support those aspirations. The Department of Education's National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) addressed this information void when it announced in 2003 its priority for a Rehabilitation, Research, and Training Center (RRTC) on disability demographic and statistics: “Lack of standard defnitions, terminology, coding, classifcation, and measurement of disability and functioning often limits generalization of research fndings. Extending use of research fndings or population trends to inform policy or clinical interventions is limited due to the diffculty of extrapolating knowledge about disabilities that is gathered from a disparate range of data sources, classifcation and coding systems, and measures of disability.”
NIDRR awarded the RRTC grant (no. H133B031111) to Cornell University and its collaborators, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., the Urban Institute, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Center for an Accessible Society, and InfoUse under the leadership of Andrew Houtenville, David Stapleton, Richard Burkhauser, and Susanne Bruyere. The new center was dubbed StatsRRTC.
In October 2006, StatsRRTC sponsored a two-day conference in Washington, DC, to present fndings from its research and hear from others engaged in related research. (Material from the conference can be found at http://www.ilr .cornell.edu/edi/p-srrtc-2006conference.cfm.) The strong interest in disability statistics—what many might think is a dry topic—was evidenced by the enthusiasm of the approximately 200 attendees, about twice the number expected.
Buoyed by the response to the conference, we decided to produce this book. The book draws on conference material but develops and updates that material in important respects. As demonstrated at the conference and in many of the book's chapters, current data—despite its limitations—contain extensive, valuable information about people with disabilities. And it is heartening that signifcant steps are being undertaken to improve the data. The American Community Survey (ACS) has allowed us to produce annual statistics at the state level on the status of people with disabilities living in the household population since 2004. The ACS added the group quarters population in 2006.