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African Americans with Disabilities Overlooked

Approximately 6 million African Americans in the U.S. live with a disability of some kind. In fact, African Americans have the highest rate of disability of all segments of the population at a little over 20 percent. Yet, they get little attention from reporters or the public.

Susan LoTempio
Susan LoTempio, NCDJ Advisory Board Member

Consider these numbers:

Poverty: Forty percent of Black Americans with disabilities live in poverty compared to 22 percent of Blacks without disabilities.

Education: African American students with disabilities have the lowest graduation rates of all other U.S. racial groups, according to one Congressional report, and graduate at a rate significantly lower than other African American students.

Employment: About 28 percent of working-age African Americans with disabilities are employed compared to 72 percent of working-age African Americans without disabilities, according to

Health:  There is evidence that African Americans with disabilities who need medical treatment face barriers that range from negative stereotypes on the part of practitioners to a lack of transportation to get to a doctor’s office.

Black history: Students introduced to African American notables such as Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer and Mary Davidson learn about their contributions to society but rarely do they find out that each had a disability.

“Many black historical figures, innovators and activists have had their disabilities erased when their stories are taught in schools and covered during Black history and women’s history observances,” reports Rewire.News.

The same could be said for the stories being written today about racial inequality which omit the struggles of Black men and women with disabilities.

For more information:


Cornell University:

Disability and the African American Experience:

National Black Disability Coalition:


National Council on Disability: 


By Susan LoTempio​, board member, National Center on Disability and Journalism

Contact @susanlotempio or via email at