JANUARY 30, 2024

ALBANY, NY: The Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. (MHEP) strongly opposes the proposed changes to how the U.S. Census Bureau counts disability. These revisions – particularly altering the disability questions on the American Community Survey – risk distorting official statistics, hindering access to essential resources such as housing and healthcare for people with disabilities, impeding legal protections against discrimination and compromising disaster preparedness efforts. Additionally, we are deeply concerned about the potential underreporting of mental illness, a critical aspect of disability, which may result from the proposed changes. The exclusion of individuals reporting “Some difficulty” from disability estimates disregards the diverse experiences and needs within the Disability Community, perpetuating historical struggles for recognition and support. While the proposed changes aim to align with international standards and enhance data accuracy, they overlook the nuanced realities of disability, including emerging conditions like long COVID, psychiatric disabilities and chronic health conditions. Furthermore, the lack of comprehensive representation and consultation with people with disabilities and advocacy organizations in the proposal’s development raises concerns about inclusivity and accuracy. MHEP urges the U.S. Census Bureau to reconsider these changes, engage in meaningful dialogue with the Disability Community and prioritize an inclusive approach that accurately reflects the lived experiences of all individuals with disabilities, including mental illness, in the United States.

For a detailed understanding of the issue and various perspectives, read the comprehensive NPR article [archived here].

There will be a chance for the public to share their thoughts in Spring 2024. The final decision will be approved by June 1, 2024 and become effective in 2025.