Southwest Cities Rank High for People with Disabilities; Nev. and Fla. Cities Score Low

Best and worst states for people with disabilities revealed in WalletHub report

By Dana Wilkie Oct 22, 2014

Best Cities for People with Disabilities

Worst Cities for People with Disabilities


Overland Park, KS


Chicago, IL


Peoria, AZ


Los Angeles, CA


Scottsdale, AZ


Reno, NV


Lubbock, TX


Fort Lauderdale, FL


Chandler, AZ


Jackson, MS


Amarillo, TX


Hialeah, FL


Gilbert, AZ


Las Vegas, NV


Tampa, FL


Miami, FL


Chesapeake, VA


North Las Vegas, NV


Huntsville, AL


Providence, RI

Source: WalletHub

For those with disabilities, having access to buildings, high-quality health care and jobs are all factors in considering where to live.

Six of the top 10 cities for people with disabilities are in the Southwest—either in Texas or Arizona—while six of the bottom 10 cities are in Nevada or Florida, according to an October 2014 report by personal finance website WalletHub. 

WalletHub released its report, 2014's Best and Worst Cities for Americans with Disabilities, in observance of Disability Employment Awareness Month in October. 

WalletHub analyzed the 150 most populated cities across three key dimensions—economic environment, quality of life, and health care accessibility and quality. The study’s authors identified 23 key metrics relevant to these dimensions. For instance, factors under economic environment included housing affordability and the employment rate among people with disabilities. Quality of life included the ratio of special education teachers to people with disabilities and the number of hotels with wheelchair access per capita. Health care accessibility and quality looked at the quality of public hospitals and the number of physicians per capita.

The study used data from several sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city that ranked highest? Overland Park, Kansas—followed by Peoria, Ariz.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Lubbock, Texas; and Chandler, Ariz. Also among the top 10 cities were Amarillo, Texas, and Gilbert, Ariz.

Several Texas cities received high marks for having relatively low doctor visit costs or low annual costs for in-home services compared with other cities surveyed. Two Texas cities—Laredo and Amarillo—were among the top five cities recording the highest employment rate among people with disabilities. Plano, Texas, and Gilbert, Ariz., had among the lowest percentage of people with disabilities living below poverty.

About 5.2 million people with disabilities were employed in September 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for individuals with a disability that month was 12.3 percent—more than double the rate for people without disabilities.

“Many [people with disabilities] receive enough public benefits to keep from being homeless, but the fear of losing benefits keeps too many people from finding full-time work,” said Steven M. Eidelman, the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services at the University of Delaware, who was interviewed by the report’s authors. “For those who receive benefits, there are asset limits which discourage saving and seeking better employment. The more significant your disability, in general, the greater risk you face of unemployment, under-employment or only part-time employment.”

The report ranked Providence, R.I., as the worst city for people with disabilities, in part because of the city’s relatively high cost for doctor’s visits. The next-worst cities for disabilities, in order, were: North Las Vegas, Nev.; Miami, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Hialeah, Fla. Also in the bottom 10 were Reno, Nev., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Jane Mauldon, associate professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, who was interviewed by the report authors, noted that there are several city characteristics besides those analyzed in the report that are important for those with disabilities.

“The most appropriate measures in one community would be irrelevant in another,” she said. “Local topography and weather matter a lot [to people with disabilities]. Obviously, para-transit is important. Also important are volunteer programs to match nondisabled volunteer drivers to disabled riders.”

While Nevada and Florida cities may have cropped up a lot on the bottom 10 list, cities in other states—notably New York, California and Ohio—frequently scored low when measured for specific factors:

  • Four of the bottom seven cities for highest annual cost of in-home services were in California—San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont.

  • Yonkers, N.Y., New York City and San Francisco were among the five cities with the highest adjusted cost of living. 

  • Three Ohio cities—Cleveland, Cincinnati and Akron—were ranked among the bottom five in three categories: lowest numbers of physicians per capita, highest percentage of individuals with disabilities below the poverty level, and lowest employment rate among people with disabilities.
That said, some New York and California cities were among the top five for highest employment rate among people with disabilities (Yonkers, N.Y.), lowest percentage of individuals with disabilities living in poverty (Santa Clarita, Calif.), highest percentage of the city with walkable park access (San Francisco and New York City), and highest numbers of physicians per capita (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Lalita Sen, professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University, who was interviewed by the report authors, suggested that people with disabilities who move to a new city be informed of “whatever benefits are available, such as discounted or free public transport, shared ride taxis … [membership in] disability advocacy groups to get discounts at participating stores, rent reductions, or assistance [with] home repairs.”

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.​

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