Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Browsing the Cornell University Disability Statistics Website

I wanted to know how many people with disabilities there were in a particular county in the U.S.  I decided to try to answer this on the basis of materials available at Cornell's Disability Statistics webpage.  I hadn't used that webpage previously, but I guessed it would probably have links, at least, to the main sources of data on the numbers of people with disabilities on federal, state, and local levels in the U.S.  In my initial looks at the webpage, I found its layout somewhat confusing.  There also seemed to be quite a bit of material there.  I decided to summarize what I found, for future reference.

The website required me to log in to view its statistics page, so I did.  I wondered where I was, in the grand scheme of things, so I backed out to the main page of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR).  Its research webpage led me to its Digital Commons, which led to its list of research units, which led to its Employment and Disability Institute (EDI), whose collection included a large number of manuscripts from recent years.  This was a bit overwhelming, so I backed up one or two steps and took a slightly different path through the EDI's webpage to its Research page and its Publications page.  The latter looked promising:  it sorted EDI publications into seven areas of expertise, each with its own webpage:  ADA, Accommodation & Accessible IT; Community Inclusion; Disability Benefits and Work; Disability Employment Research; Disability Statistics Research; Educational Achievement & Transition; and International Disability Research.  The Disability Statistics Research link under Publications actually just produced what appeared to be the results of an automatic search.

I went back to the EDI homepage.  This time, I explored the links under the Our Areas of Expertise & Projects heading.  These included ediONLINE; ADA, Accommodation & Accessible IT; Community Inclusion; Disability Benefits and Work; Disability Employment Research; Disability Statistics Research; Educational Achievement & Transition; International Disability Research; and Workforce Development.  Here, the Disability Statistics Research link led, reasonably enough, to the Disability Statistics Research homepage.  It looked like one of those that I had seen before, when I was doing my initial poking around (above).  The main current project shown here was the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics (StatsRRTC), whose purpose was to bridge the divide between the sources of disability data and the users of disability statistics.  This project's homepage pointed to a list of events, such as a free webinar reviewing a statistics report.  I clicked on one of those events, entitled Discovering Untapped Talent for the Workforce of Tomorrow: Strategies for Employing People with Disabilities.  I was hoping it would lead me to sources of information on the topic, but it appeared to be intended just to notify people of seminars that they would typically have to attend in person.

I backed up a step and tried the Resources page instead of Publications.  This opened up links to the Benequal Organization Assessment webpage; the Disability Medicare Wizard webpage; the Disability Statistics page; the Human Resources (HR) Americans with Disabilities Act Tips page; a Disability Policy Primer; the website of the Longitudinal Study of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program; the Northeast ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] & AIT [Accessible Information Technology] Center; the website for the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program; the Person Centered Planning Education Site; the TransQUAL Online website; and the Universal Access New York website.

From those choices, I went into the Disability Statistics page.  I looked through its Statistics and Data Sources pages, but then decided that its FAQs page looked most promising.  There, I gravitated toward its list of Disability Data Source User Guides, with links to the Guide to Disability Statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS) (Weathers, 2005); the Guide to Disability Statistics from the Current Population Survey (CPS) - Annual Social and Economic Supplement (Burkhauser & Houtenville, 2006); the Guide to Disability Statistics from the 2000 Decennial Census (Erickson & Houtenville, 2005); the Guide to Disability Statistics from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Harris, Hendershot, & Stapleton, 2005); the Guide to Disability Statistics from National Health Interview Survey – Disability Supplement (Maag, 2006); the Guide to Disability Statistics from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) (Burkhauser, Weathers, & Schroeder, 2006); and the Guide to Disability Statistics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) (Wittenburg & Nelson, 2006).

To choose among those user guides, I looked at the FAQ that indicated which data sources would be most appropriate for various purposes.  That FAQ indicated that the ACS was best for current data on disabilities, but also that data below the state level would be reported only in the 2000 Census.  Looking at Weathers (2005, p. 3), however, I found that the ACS was supposed to provide data at the county and Metropolitan Statistical Area levels as well.  I obtained some additional confirmation of that by going to the Census Bureau's American FactFinder page, using its Get Data link under the ACS heading, and observing that it did offer data from the 2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates.  According to the About This Data Set link for that particular three-year estimate, however, data on disabilities were not included.  Instead, the 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates provided the most recent data set offering estimates on disabilities.  (One-year estimates were available only for local units of population > 65,000, as distinct from the lower limit of a population > 20,000 applicable to the three-year estimates.)  For actual findings, as distinct from estimates, the most recent survey with data on disabilities was the 2006 American Community Survey, with an accompanying 2006 Quick Guide ("quick" meaning a PDF of only 50 pages).

This look through the Cornell Disability Statistics website suggested that the site provided informative access to a variety of helpful materials, and that the ACS in particular would tend to be the starting point for my work in reaching specific numbers about persons with disabilities in a particular county.  The next step in my inquiry was to try to put some of those materials to use in reaching actual numbers.