High quality disability statistics play an important role in efforts to address disparities between people with and without disabilities. However, there is a divide between the producers and end users of disability statistics. On one side of this divide, the production of relevant disability statistics is hindered by the challenge of capturing the complexity of disability via data collection instruments and by the exclusion of people with disabilities due to barriers within data collection environments. On the other side of this divide, the use of disability statistics is adversely affected by the fragmented production of disability statistics across several agencies (making statistics difficult to find, interpret, and compare) and by the limited resources/capacity of many end users to compile, analyze, and interpret statistics.
The mission of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC) is to narrow and actively bridge the divide between the producers and end users of disability statistics, thereby supporting better data collection, more accurate information, better decision-making, more effective programs, and better lives for people with disabilities.
In pursuit of this mission, the Center will conduct 12 research and 15 knowledge translation projects that build upon the work of the current StatsRRTC. Several research projects focus on the collection of disability statistics and will narrow the divide by (a) developing recommendations and measurement tools to improve the identification of the population with disabilities and measure services, and (b) conducting experiments to test alternative survey methods. The other research projects actively bridge the divide by analyzing existing data to (c) assess progress towards national goals and (d) address information needs about critical programs. The Center’s dissemination projects will actively bridge the divide by providing access to timely and relevant disability statistics, primarily through (e) national and state-level Annual Reports on Disability that track key indicators, and (f) an Annual Disability Statistics Compendium that allow end users to access even more statistics. Technical assistance projects will narrow and actively bridge the divide by (g) producing customized statistical analyses and compilations for key stakeholders, (h) allowing users to create customized reports via the State/Local Statistics Generator, (i) providing information and referral services, and (j) providing technical consultation on collection methods and data analysis. The Center’s training projects will also narrow the divide by increasing the capacity of end users to effectively utilize disability statistics, primarily through (k) the Annual Report and Compendium Rollout event, (l) online training courses for VR evaluators, and (m) the Center’s State-of-the-Science conference.
The Center is staffed by an experienced team of collaborators that is well-positioned to successfully carry out all of the Center’s activities. This team represents a variety of disciplines (including VR counseling, special education, survey research, epidemiology, and economics) with years of experience in research, service delivery, and policy advocacy. This team, which has worked together for years on prior StatsRRTCs and other NIDRR-funded centers, resides in a variety of organizations, including:
- University of New Hampshire–Institute on Disability, a University Center of Excellence on Disability,
- Mathematica Policy Research, a world-class employee-owned survey and research firm,
- Kessler Foundation, a leading medical rehabilitation research organization,
- Public Health Institute, a NIDRR-funded regional ADA Center,
- InfoUse, a long-standing organization in the field of disability statistics,
- American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country’s largest cross-disability membership association, and
- Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), a nationally-recognized association of disability services administrators
The StatsRRTC is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, NIDILRR – Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs) Program under grant number 90RT5022-02-00, from 2013 - 2018.