2020 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by former President George. H. W. Bush in 1990. That seminal piece of legislation, which outlawed discrimination of people with disabilities in any area of public life including work, business, school, transportation, and all other places open to the general public, paved the way for the success enjoyed by that community today. But there is still a long way to go for the Social Security Administration to ensure equal short-term and long-term disability benefits for people across the United States.
As such, it is important to arm disabled people with current research that reflects where they can find the highest quality of life from a comprehensive perspective. There are many organizations compiling this research and data and drawing conclusions from what is available. However, for the purposes of this article, we have decided to utilize the information and findings presented by Policygenius to create a guide of the best states for disability benefits.
Policygenius utilized the following categories, derived from over a dozen different metrics, to create an index and paint a clearer picture of which states are most livable for people with disabilities. They are:
Economic data, including income and unemployment rate for residents with a disability
Affordability, which takes housing costs as a percent of income
Livability, or how easy transportation is
And finally, health care and insurance
As Policygenius says,
"Comparing data across these four areas allows someone to make a more informed decision about how well their individual needs will be met in each state. For example, someone who drives may not be as worried about moving to a state with good public transportation. But they may want to reconsider if they rely on Medicare and are moving to a place without many Medicare providers and supportive long- term disability programs."
With that said, here’s their list of the top ten best states for those living with developmental disabilities.
Massachusetts – This state topped their list with the second-best livability score and fourth-best health care score. Though 10th on the list for walkability and public transit, 98.3% of residents with a disability have health insurance.
Pennsylvania – Number two on the list is Pennsylvania, which actually has the highest livability score out of all the states. As of 9th on public transit and with the third-best transit score overall, it is also the 4th most walkable state in the country. For those primarily interested in economic findings, PA ranks in the top half, with a living wage of $11.45 an hour as part of workers' compensation.
Vermont – Vermont comes in third for finishing in the top 16 of all states across three of the four major factor categories: healthcare, livability, and economic data. It has the second-highest rate of health insurance coverage at 97.7% (only behind Massachusetts). The median annual household income is low at $20,427, but unemployment is also low at 11%.
North Dakota – The only Midwestern state to crack the top ten! It scores well in the economic and affordability factors. It has a very low unemployment rate for those with a disability (at 6% across all states). Median earnings are $24,809 which ranks it 10th overall. Another attractive metric is that housing is very affordable, with a median monthly housing cost of $782.
Maryland – Maryland comes in at number five primarily because of its health care excellence. 96% of all disabled people have health insurance. It has the specific Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance benefit of $1,118 coupled with a $1,242 Social Security Disability insurance benefit which are both higher numbers than the federally-mandated minimums (for each specific type). These programs were made to partially replace income that would be lost because of old age, the death of a spouse, or a disability.
West Virginia – West Virginia has come a long way since a 2015 report by the United Cerebral Palsy Association entitled “Case for Inclusion” ranked it among the worst states for those living with developmental disabilities. Now, thanks to an extremely low affordability score and mid-table rankings for median annual earnings and unemployment, West Virginia finds itself firmly in the top ten on Policygenius’ list.
Delaware – With the second-highest healthcare score, Delaware cracks the top ten. Its OASDI and SSDI benefit awards are second only to Maryland and above federal minimums. With a high livability score, top ten for public transit and walkability, it ranks 12th overall. Economically, Delaware has the fourth-lowest poverty rate amongst residents with disabilities (at 16%). It also has a program called the “Ticket to Work” program, which provides free employment support services for those on Social Security disability insurance.
Washington – Coming in high on the cost of living, Washington’s data indicates you need to earn $13 per hour to live comfortably, the median annual earnings for residents with disabilities is also high. Labor force participation, unemployment, and poverty rates also all rank in the top half of all states. With only a poor walkability score for anyone living outside Seattle, its comprehensive scores across all categories land it in the top ten for short-term and long-term disability benefits.
New York – This state is primarily on the list for its livability. Public transit is seventh-best nationwide for New York and helps boost its livability, with 30% of workers using public transportation. However, it does have a higher cost of living, much like most states in the Northeast. Many New Yorkers with disabilities also take advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, with 30% of households with one member that has a disability participating.
Oregon – Also high-ranked for livability, Oregon has the 12th best walkability and public transit scores; all 83 of the state’s public transit stations are ADA-accessible. This is important because Oregon also happens to have one of the highest percentages of residents with disabilities—15% of the state’s total population. Of which, nearly a third of those are in public housing, making it the fifth in the US.
Understanding the Scores
Overall, these scores were determined by ranking the best and worst qualities of a state as dictated by 26 factors. As mentioned above, they were broken up by four larger categories but it is important to identify the others, as this will help you understand all the variables that qualify a state as most “livable” for those with disabilities.
The following were used to determine the relative economic health of the state, then the financial health of those living with disabilities presently in the state.
- Median earnings for people with a disability
- Labor force participation rate for people with a disability
- The unemployment rate for people who have a disability and are in the labor force
- The poverty rate for people with a disability
- Ticket to Work offices
- Ticket to Work tickets
Taking into account several factors, these criteria were used to not only indicate how much it costs to live in a certain place but also how much those were earning in the state (measured against the overall cost of living).
- Livable wage
- Monthly housing costs
- Housing costs as a percent of income
- Percent of residents with a disability in public housing
- Percent of households receiving SNAP benefits
- Average SNAP benefit per person
These scores were taken from a variety of factors that determined the relative ease of living within a given state. Specifically geared toward those living with disabilities, these metrics provide additional context into the living situations of the state’s residents.
- Walk score
- Transit score
- ADA-accessible transit stations
- Percent of the population using public transportation
- Average commute time to work
- The population of residents with a disability
- Percent of state residents that have a disability
While last on our list, health care is certainly not the least important. The disabled community must be extremely mindful of the cost of health care, more so than almost any other within the US. Ensuring that your disability can be financially managed without drastic reductions in your quality of life is an important factor when deciding where to live. Access to long-term care services is critical for those who have a disability so that their physical and mental health is constantly being supported.
- Accredited health departments per capita
- Percent of residents with a disability that have health insurance
- Medicare enrollees
- Medicare providers per capita
- Average Medicare bill per person
- Average OASDI benefits
- Average SSDI benefits
How To Discover The Best State For Your Short-Term and Long-Term Care
Finding and creating a new home is no easy task, no matter what state you’re in, disability or not. Should you ever find yourself in the market for a new living situation but would like to test the waters first, consider Zeus Living as your chance to explore With furnished housing all over the US, Zeus offers beautiful, fully-equipped studios, apartments, and homes for stays of a month or longer. With Zeus taking care of the details, you’ll have less stress and more time to take care of your move. When you let Zeus help you visit a new state comfortably, you can experience a new neighborhood, and ensure that the state and property cater to your needs, hassle-free!
Additional Zeus Resources
United Cerebral Palsy. The Case for Inclusion 2020: Key Findings Report.
Policygenius. The best states for living with a disability.
Wallethub. Best & Worst Cities for People with Disabilities.
Abilities.com. Best and Worst Places to Live for People with Disabilities.
US News & World Report. The 10 Best States for Disability Employment.