When searching for a new home, people with disabilities often have a longer and more complicated list of considerations compared with other individuals. In addition to common wish-list items, such as reliable public transportation and diverse entertainment options, people with disabilities also must think about things like the accessibility of facilities or even the cleanliness of the air. In 2021, they’ll also need to consider how well the city is handling COVID-19, since they can be more at risk for serious symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four U.S. adults, or 61 million total, have a disability that impacts their major activities. And among Americans aged 65 and older, that number rises to two in five. Keeping up with the costs of a disability can be very expensive. The average monthly Social Security disability benefit as of August 2020 was only $1,151.79. That makes a yearly income of $13,821.48, only slightly above the federal poverty line for a single individual at $12,880.
Although disability benefits can increase based on inflation, many people with disabilities rely on low cost of living and wages for financial relief. In 2020, over 5.3 million people with disabilities were employed. Naturally, though, a far lower share of people with disabilities is able to work compared to the share of people with no major health issues.
With the physical and economic challenges of managing a disability in mind, WalletHub compared more than 180 most populated cities across 34 key indicators of disability-friendliness. Our data set ranges from physicians per capita to rate of workers with disabilities to park accessibility.
In the overall ranking below, readers who are particularly interested in the best places to live on disability income should focus on the “Economy” category. Likewise, those who place a higher premium on quality of medical care should focus on the “Health Care” category.
Best & Worst Cities for People with Disabilities
||City||Overall Score||Economy||Quality of Life||Health Care|
|1||Overland Park, KS||58.59||2||163||1|
|3||St. Louis, MO||57.92||135||4||11|
|8||Huntington Beach, CA||55.88||47||35||32|
|9||San Francisco, CA||55.67||155||10||15|
|12||New York, NY||55.18||130||8||62|
|18||St. Paul, MN||54.53||164||41||3|
|19||Kansas City, MO||54.47||52||73||21|
|24||Virginia Beach, VA||53.51||1||86||158|
|31||Jersey City, NJ||53.19||131||19||58|
|32||St. Petersburg, FL||53.16||30||60||90|
|33||Grand Rapids, MI||53.15||100||27||68|
|34||Fort Lauderdale, FL||53.09||85||18||111|
|36||Des Moines, IA||52.99||72||116||7|
|40||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||52.63||12||64||137|
|42||Colorado Springs, CO||52.49||69||68||57|
|46||San Antonio, TX||52.31||38||96||50|
|48||South Burlington, VT||52.16||95||31||89|
|51||Sioux Falls, SD||52.08||81||89||34|
|61||San Jose, CA||51.79||133||50||36|
|62||Salt Lake City, UT||51.79||110||14||135|
|69||San Diego, CA||50.99||102||44||100|
|75||Fort Smith, AR||50.64||94||71||86|
|83||Las Vegas, NV||50.19||91||43||133|
|85||Santa Clarita, CA||50.03||92||112||45|
|87||Long Beach, CA||49.87||169||30||67|
|88||Cedar Rapids, IA||49.85||97||150||22|
|91||Las Cruces, NM||49.63||144||138||14|
|92||Garden Grove, CA||49.63||152||75||44|
|93||Santa Ana, CA||49.60||143||62||73|
|94||Los Angeles, CA||49.51||175||20||80|
|95||El Paso, TX||49.39||16||154||105|
|97||Santa Rosa, CA||49.29||128||82||72|
|99||Fort Worth, TX||49.20||24||142||118|
|102||Pembroke Pines, FL||49.02||62||122||88|
|107||Little Rock, AR||48.59||84||161||39|
|111||Corpus Christi, TX||48.27||32||152||101|
|117||Fort Wayne, IN||48.19||118||108||82|
|120||Chula Vista, CA||48.03||95||109||98|
|122||Oklahoma City, OK||47.78||25||143||146|
|123||Grand Prairie, TX||47.58||5||181||123|
|126||Rapid City, SD||47.48||151||72||116|
|129||Port St. Lucie, FL||47.35||23||166||139|
|138||New Orleans, LA||46.86||167||32||149|
|141||Newport News, VA||46.72||17||127||174|
|146||Cape Coral, FL||46.49||78||135||141|
|147||West Valley City, UT||46.49||40||151||155|
|148||Baton Rouge, LA||46.44||145||78||143|
|151||Moreno Valley, CA||46.08||59||148||153|
|152||North Las Vegas, NV||45.96||46||167||138|
|162||Pearl City, HI||44.89||9||177||167|
|164||San Bernardino, CA||44.61||113||126||159|
|179||New Haven, CT||41.84||182||121||56|
Ask The Experts
Living with a disability can be both financially and physically burdensome. In light of these challenges, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What are some unique financial challenges faced by people with disabilities, particularly those who rely on government assistance? How can they be overcome?
- In evaluating the best cities for people with disabilities, what are the top five indicators?
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was adopted nearly three decades ago. What 21st century improvements should be made, if any, to this important act?
- How has the pandemic impacted people with disabilities in terms of labor and higher education?
- What local policies and programs have proven effective in increasing inclusion of and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities?
- What can be done to facilitate better access to health care, testing sites and critical information when it comes to COVID-19 for people with disabilities?
Ask the Experts
To determine the most livable places for people with disabilities, WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across three key dimensions: 1) Economy, 2) Quality of Life and 3) Health Care.
We evaluated those dimensions using 34 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for people with disabilities. Please note that data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only. For metrics marked with two asterisks (**), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded cities in the surrounding metro area.
Economy – Points: 33.33
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Housing Costs (accounts for both rental and sale prices) / Median Annual Household Income.
- Cost of Living: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Median Earnings for People with Disabilities: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Employment Rate for People with Disabilities: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Share of People with Disabilities Living in Poverty: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Share of Homeless People with Disabilities: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Annual Cost of In-Home Services: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
Note: In-home, or homemaker services, include basic household assistance such as shopping, laundry, personal hygiene and meal preparation.
- Presence of CDC Funding for Disability & Health Programs: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of funding for disability and health programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The overall goal of this funding opportunity is to reduce health disparities experienced by adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and adults with mobility limitations (ML) in the United States.
- Presence of Public-Housing Waiting List for Seniors/People with Disabilities: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of public-housing waiting lists that are currently open for seniors and people with disabilities. Public Housing is a federal program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Presence of “Disability Insurance” Programs: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
- Presence of Employment First: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
Note: This metric measures the presence or absence of employment first activity, executive order or legislation in a state. The Employment First Program facilitates inclusion of people with significant disabilities in the workplace, encouraging integrated employment as the first and preferred option for youth and adults with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems.
Quality of Life – Points: 33.33
- Share of People with Disabilities: Double Weight (~6.06 Points)
- Special-Education Teachers per 1,000 School-Aged People with Disabilities: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Graduation Rate for Students with Disabilities: Half* Weight (~1.52 Points)
- Wheelchair-Accessible Restaurants per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Wheelchair-Accessible Grocery Stores per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Wheelchair-Accessible Art, Entertainment & Recreational Establishments per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Wheelchair-Accessible Trails per Capita**: Half* Weight (~1.52 Points)
- Share of Population with Walkable Park Access: Half Weight (~1.52 Points)
- Walkability: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Effectiveness of State Medicaid Programs: Full* Weight (~3.03 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the annual ranking of how well state Medicaid programs serve Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD).
- Share of Young Buildings: Half Weight (~1.52 Points)
Note: This metric considers the difficulty in making older buildings accessible and accounts for buildings built in 2000 or later.
- Share of Accessible Homes Listed on Redfin.com: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
Health Care – Points: 33.33
- Percentage of Residents That Are Fully Vaccinated: Double Weight (~7.02 Points)
- Cost of Doctor Visit: Full Weight (~3.51 Points)
- Average Per-Person Health-Insurance Premium: Half* Weight (~1.75 Points)
- Family Medicine Physicians per Capita: Full Weight (~3.51 Points)
- Occupational Therapists per Capita: Full Weight (~3.51 Points)
- Home Health Aides & Personal Care Aides per Capita: Full Weight (~3.51 Points)
Note: Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities.
- WalletHub “Doctors” Ranking: Half* Weight (~1.75 Points)
- WalletHub “Nurses” Ranking: Half* Weight (~1.75 Points)
- Hospitals per Capita: Half* Weight (~1.75 Points)
- Quality of Public Hospital System: Half* Weight (~1.75 Points)
- Share of Uninsured Population: Full Weight (~3.51 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Education Statistics, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Trust For Public Land, Genworth Financial, United Cerebral Palsy, APSE - Association of People Supporting Employment First, WalkScore, Yelp, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Affordable Housing Online, Kaiser Family Foundation, Sequoia Consulting Group, Redfin.com and WalletHub research.