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This July marks 32 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This important piece of federal legislation ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to enjoy and participate in many aspects of everyday life, including employment, state and local government services, public transit, businesses and nonprofits serving the public, telecommunications, and other areas of public life.

The ADA protects people with disabilities, including anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a history or record of such an impairment, or is perceived by others as having such an impairment. Disabilities include a wide range of visible and invisible conditions, like autism, blindness or low vision, cancer, deafness or hearing loss, HIV, intellectual disabilities, mobility disabilities, and traumatic brain injury.

What do we know about Minnesotans with disabilities? Here are a few things we can learn from Compass data.

Measuring disability with Compass data sources

The data source for this article, the American Community Survey, identifies disability in four basic areas of functioning and two areas that may impact a person’s ability to live independently. All questions are based on self-identification. Hearing and vision questions are asked for all age groups, while the remaining questions are asked for people age 5 and older.

  • Hearing limitations: Deaf or serious difficulty hearing
  • Vision limitations: Blind or serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses
  • Limitations in cognitive functioning: Serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions due to a physical, mental, or emotional condition
  • Ambulatory limitations: Serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • Self-care limitations: Difficulty dressing or bathing
  • Independent living limitations: Difficulty doing errands alone due to a physical, mental, or emotional condition

Even with these six questions about disability, it is important to note that this is a limited measure of disability and does not account for all people protected by the ADA.

About 1 in 10 Minnesotans has a disability.

Nearly 605,000 Minnesotans, or 11% of the state’s population, have a disability. The share of residents with a disability ranges from 10% of Twin Cities residents to 15% of Northland region residents.

Prevalence of disability tends to increase with age.

Increasing shares of Minnesota residents have a disability at older ages. Twenty-nine percent of older adults (65+) have a disability, compared to 9% of working-age adults (18-64) and 5% of school-aged children (5-17). The most common types of disabilities vary by age.

Age group Prevalence of disability Most common disability type
Young children (0-4) 1% N/A1
School-aged children (5-17) 4% Cognitive
Working-age adults (18-64) 9% Cognitive
Older adults (65+) 29% Ambulatory
1 The American Community Survey only measures two of the six types of disability among young children: hearing and vision limitations. Both are statistically tied for most common disability type among young children.

Minnesotans with disabilities tend to be at greater economic risk.

Compared to all Minnesotans, we see higher levels of poverty, lower levels of employment, and lower median earnings among Minnesotans with a disability.

Economic indicators among Minnesotans with disabilities
Minnesota, 2019

Economic indicator

Minnesotans with disabilities

All Minnesotans




Receives Food Stamps/SNAP1



Proportion of adults working



Median earnings



1 Household-level measure comparing Minnesota households with one or more people with disabilities to all households.


Recent research suggests that, with a few exceptions, workers with and without disabilities in the same occupation tend to have similar earnings. But median earnings among Minnesotans with disabilities are about half of earnings among all Minnesotans. Researchers attribute this earnings gap to differences in types of occupations and work schedules between workers with and without disabilities. In Minnesota, 48% of workers with a disability work full-time, year-round, compared to 67% of all workers.

Want to learn more?

Learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act and its titles on The ADA National Network provides information, guidance, and training to businesses, employers, state and local governments, and other organizations and individuals on how to implement the ADA.

The Minnesota Council on Disability advises, provides technical assistance, collaborates, and advocates to expand opportunities, improve the quality of life, and empower all persons with disabilities.