Understanding Disability

Who’s impacted?

graphic with four human silhouettes, three colored teal and one colored yellow representing 1 in 4

1 in 4

Adults in the U.S.*

graphic with five human silhouettes, four colored teal and one colored yellow representing 1 in 5

1 in 5

Undergraduate students**

graphic with nine human silhouettes, eight colored teal and one colored yellow representing 1 in 9

1 in 9

Graduate students**

*Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Disability and Health Promotion

**Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Disability is diverse.

It can happen to anyone at any time. It happens to all of us as we age.

It can affect cognitive abilities, vision, hearing, speech or mobility – or some combination of those. 

You may have a picture in your mind of what a “disabled person” looks like, but many disabilities don’t “look” like anything. Cognitive disabilities are often overlooked, but are more prevalent than hearing and vision disabilities combined.

Disabilities can be…

human head shape in profile with a nest of squiggly lines revealed inside
eye with droopy lids and visible capillaries
Driving in traffic
automotive steering wheel
eye icon with a diagonal line across it
Just had eyes dilated
eye with large pupil and a drop of liquid near its edge
Bright sunlight
eye icon with small pupil and bright sun in the background
ear with an x in front of it
Ear infection
ear with two jagged lines extending away from it
Noisy environment
ear with a group of vertical lines suggesting a sound wave
two hands making a gesture
Mouth numb from dentist
tooth with a cluster of short lines extending from one corner
Don’t speak the language
planet earth with different letter symbols in speech bubbles, coming from opposite sides of the globe
upper torso with one arm hanging limp
Broken arm
arm in a cast
Broken mouse
computer mouse with one of the buttons broken off
Examples of permanent, temporary and situational disabilities affecting cognition, vision, hearing, speech and mobility.

Find more tools and guidance at accessibility.umich.edu, the university’s repository for digital accessibility knowledge.