Sample Description


A total of 946 surveys were returned to us; however, some were not completely filled out. Also, some were completed by women who did not meet all the eligibility criteria for the study, that is, they were not between the ages of 18 and 65, or they had a disability that was not mobility-related, such as blindness or deafness. One survey had to be eliminated because it was completed by a man! Analyses were conducted on 881 questionnaires received from 475 women with disabilities and 406 able-bodied women who made up the comparison group.

The women who participated in this study represent every part of the United States and a wide variety of personal, social, and demographic characteristics. The women with and without disabilities in this sample were of similar racial background and socioeconomic status. The women without disabilities, however, were slightly younger, with an average age of 39 years compared to 42 years for the sample of women with disabilities.

Women with disabilities in this sample had the following characteristics. The most common primary disability type was spinal cord injury (26 percent), followed by polio (18 percent), neuromuscular disorders (12 percent), cerebral palsy (10 percent), multiple sclerosis (10 percent), joint and connective tissue disease (8 percent), and skeletal abnormalities (5 percent). Nearly half of the sample (49 percent) had disabilities since childhood (0-11 years old), 10 percent since adolescence (12-17 years old), and 41 percent since adulthood (18 years and over). Twenty-two percent had severe functional limitations, 52 percent had moderate disabilities, and 26 percent had mild disabilities.

Eighty-two percent were white, 9 percent African-American, 4 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Native American, and 2 percent Asian. Those living in urban or suburban areas comprised 89 percent of the sample, with 11percent living in small towns or rural areas.

The sample was well educated, with 53 percent of the women with disabilities and 42 percent of the women without disabilities having college degrees. Fifty-nine percent were working for a salary part time or full time, compared to 86 percent of women without disabilities. The median annual personal income of the sample of women with disabilities was $15,000, with a household income of $25,000, compared to personal income for women without disabilities of $18,500 and household income of $32,000.