Just How Many People with Disabilities Live in Colorado Springs?

According to the 2008-2010 American Community Survey (ACS), 60,733 residents of El Paso County are estimated to have disabilities. This translates to 10.5% of the estimated 580,646 residents living in the County.

In 2013 there will be more complete numbers based on the rolling 3 year ACS survey with a better breakdown among types of disabilities or functional limitations and other information. Having some sense of how many people have what type of functional limitations gives policy makers and government staff more information with which to plan. Since we are deeply focused on emergency planning in El Paso County after the Waldo Canyon Fire, lets take a look at some of the numbers. They may surprise you!

First a few definitions: People responding to the survey were asked if, based on a physical, mental or emotional condition they had trouble with hearing, vision, cognitive, self-care, or independent living functions.

Hearing difficulty can range from hard of hearing to deafness.
Vision difficulty can range from a vision difficulty even with glasses to blindness.
Cognitive difficulty is defined as having difficulty concentrating, remembering or making a decision.
Ambulatory difficulty refers to the ability to walk, climb stairs, reaching and lifting independently.
Self Care refers to the ability to dress and shower (activities of daily living) independently.
Independent Living difficulty refers to the ability to do errands such as visiting the doctor’s office or shopping independently.
Often those with self-care limitations will need considerable human assistance such as family members, attendants or personal care workers or certified nursing assistants or nurses to live independently in the community.

Here is a break down of functional limitations by age group:

Birth to 17 total: 4,989

Hearing difficulty 794

Vision difficulty 727

Cognitive difficulty 3557 (age 5-17)

Ambulatory difficulty 486 (age 5-17)

Self Care difficulty 924 (age 5-17)

18-64 total: 36,137

Hearing difficulty 8,861

Vision difficulty 5,687

Cognitive difficulty 14,249

Ambulatory difficulty 16,082

Self Care difficulty 4,564

Independent Living difficulty 10,018

65 and older total: 19,607

Hearing difficulty 8,693

Vision difficulty 3,448

Cognitive difficulty 4,248

Ambulatory difficulty 12,073

Self Care difficulty 3,704

Independent Living difficulty 8,126

For El Paso County here are the basic numbers of people with disabilities by the categories used in the American Community Survey:

Hearing difficulty 18,348

Vision difficulty 9,862

Cognitive difficulty 22,054

Ambulatory difficulty 28,641

Self Care difficulty 9,192

Independent Living difficulty 18,144

Now we can begin to develop a better picture, even through estimates such as these, about the emergency needs of 60,000 El Paso County residents. However, the Emergency Operations planners need input from people with disabilities who are living in the community. We are the experts on our disabilities and can work with the planners to design a better plan.

If you were affected by the Waldo Canyon fire, come to the August 30th listening session with the planners and provide your thoughts on what worked and didn’t work during the alerts, evacuation and sheltering phases of the emergency.

This fire was a wake up call for all of us to get a plan. For people who cannot evacuate independently having a plan with a personal network of assistants may mean the difference between life and death. Check our website for individual planning checklists.

Statistics are helpful but the human story is powerful in making change.

Information taken from American Community Survey estimates 2008-2012.