Facts and statistics

Below are some statistics on the general population of disabled people. They are useful to understand market needs, behaviour and trends.

Search the research archive to find our or others' reports on specific subjects. Use the filters for the various report topics.


General disability facts

  • There are 9.4 million disabled people in England, accounting for 18 per cent of the population
  • 45  per cent are males
  • 55 per cent are females
  • The North East of England has the highest proportion of disabled people, accounting for 22 per cent of the population

Census – 2011


  • The prevalence rate of disability rises with age − around 1 in 20 children are disabled, compared to around 1 in 5 working age adults, and almost 1 in 2 people over state pension age

Office for Disability Issues updated Department for Work and Pensions estimates based on Family Resources survey 2009/10


  • Less than 8 per cent of disabled people use wheelchairs.  The majority of impairments are not visible
  • Disability is strongly related to age
    • 2.1 per cent of 16-19 year olds
    • 31 per cent of 50-59 years;
    • 78 per cent of people aged 85 or over
  • People are more likely to become disabled if they have a low income, are out of work or have low educational qualification

 Papworth Trust disability facts and figures 2010


  • 38 per cent of people believe disabled people are a burden on society
  • 28 per cent of people believe there is Ill feeling around the perceived extra support given to disabled people (28 per cent
  • More than a quarter (27 per cent) of people think disabled people are treated differently because there is a lack of knowledge around disability
  • Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of people have admitted they avoid disabled people because they don't know how to act around them
  • More than half (52 per cent) of people  assume disabilities are physical
  • Only 7 per cent  of people would consider mental disability when told that a person is disabled
  • Only 26 per cent of people class facial disfigurement as a disability
  • More than a third (34 per cnt) don't consider hearing loss to be a disability.

BT - 'Ready, Willing and Disabled Event 2011


  • One hundred and eighty disability hate crimes are committed every day in this country.
  • Fear and loss of confidence are the most common consequences of disability harassment.
  • Prosecutions and convictions for disability hate crime fell in 2011/12 after rising three years in a row – only partly due to fewer referrals from the police

Fulfilling potential 2012

Festival of Sport copyright M Lomas

 Disability and Ethnicity

  • There are over 1 million disabled BME people in the UK, around 1 in 10 of all disabled people, but there is little doubt that this is an underestimation due to the difficulties in measuring
  • Evidence suggests that some non-white groups are less willing to report themselves as being disabled – something particularly true of Chinese groups, who have the lowest reported prevalence overall

Over-looked Communities, Over-due Change: how services can better support BME disabled people 2012

  • People from black and minority ethnic communities are at greater risk of some of the leading causes of sight loss.


Impairment specific facts

Visual Impairment

  • There are 1.86 million people in the UK with sight loss
  • It is predicted that by 2020 the number of people with sight loss will rise to over 2,250,000. By 2050, the numbers of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million

RNIB Sight Loss UK 2012 report

  • There are an estimated 40,000 people aged 0-25 who are blind or partially sighted. About 16,000 of them are younger than 16 years old.

IPPR report: Work for disabled people

  • Sight loss affects people of all ages, but as we get older we are increasingly likely to experience sight loss.
    • 1 in 5 people aged 75 and over are living with sight loss.
    • 1 in 2 people aged 90 and over are living with sight loss.


Hearing Impairment

  • 1 in 7 people in the UK (9 million) are Deaf or hard of hearing (14 per cent)
  • About 3.5 million people of working age (16 – 65 years) are deaf or hard of hearing. 160,000 of these are severely or profoundly deaf.
  • About 2 million people in the UK have hearing aids, but only 1.4 million use them regularly.
  • There are at least another 4 million people who do not have hearing aids but experience significant hearing difficulties in everyday life. They would be likely to benefit from hearing aids.
  • 55,000 people in the UK are registered Deaf and 159,00 registered as hard of hearing


  • 840 babies are born in the UK each year with significant deafness. The vast majority of these are born to hearing parents. Around half of those children with a permanent deafness have inherited it from one or both of their parents.
  • There are 20,000 children aged 0 to 15 who are moderately or profoundly deaf
  • 12,000 children age 0 to 15 years old who were born deaf in the UK.
  • In 2010, there were 15,520 pupils with hearing impairments

  Department of Children, Families and Schools, 2010


 Physical Impairment

  • 577,000 people in the UK receive benefits as a result of having problems with mobility.

BICPA (Being Inclusive in the Creative and Performing Arts)

  • There are around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, roughly 2 per cent of UK population

NHS purchasing and supply agency 2000

  • Only 28 per cent of wheelchair users are under 60

Papworth Trust Disability Facts and Figures2010

  • 27 per cent of young disabled people had a severe disability relating to ambulation

Sport England: Young People with a Disability and Sport Disability Survey 2000

  • Restricted growth is believed to affect between 4,500  and 6,000 people in the UK


  • One in 10 thousand babies are born with Dwarfism


  • Dwarfism can be caused by about 200 distinct medical conditions


  • Cerebral Palsy is a relatively rare condition affecting approximately 2.0–2.5 people in every 1,000 in the population.

Scope Focusing On CP

  • 1 in 400 children are born with cerebral palsy (estimated 30,250 in UK) with 1,800 babies being diagnosed with the condition each year



Learning disability

  • About 985,000 people in England have a learning disability (2 per cent of the population)

 2010: Key facts about disability

  • About 200 babies are born every week with a learning disability

Papworth Trust Disability Facts and Figures2010 

  • There are 55,000-75,000 children with a moderate or severe learning disability in England

Learning disabilities: facts and figures, Department of Health 2007.

  • The number of adults with learning disabilities is predicted to increase by 11 per cent between 2001 and 2021. This would raise the number of people in England aged 15 and above with learning disabilities to over one million by 2021

Estimating Future Need/Demand for Supports for Adults with Learning Disabilities in England, Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University 2004.

  • Only 20 per cent of adults with learning disabilities are known to learning disability services

The Office for National Statistics & NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre 2004



Mental Health

  • 1 in 4 British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one-year, and one in six experiences this at any given time

The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report 2001

  • Although mental disorders are widespread, serious cases are concentrated among a relatively small proportion of people who experience more than one mental health problem

The British Journal of Psychiatry 2005

  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with almost 9 per cent of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
  • Between 8-12 per cent of the population experience depression in any year.

The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001

  • About half of people with common mental health problems are no longer affected after 18 months, but poorer people, the long-term sick and unemployed people are more likely to be still affected than the general population. 

Better Or Worse: A Longitudinal Study Of The Mental Health Of Adults In Great Britain, National Statistics, 2003

  • One in ten children between the ages of one and 15 has a mental health disorder 

The Office for National Statistics - Mental health in children and young people in Great Britain 2005

  • Dementia affects 5 per cent of people over the age of 65 and 20 per cent of those over 80. About 700,000 people in the UK have dementia (1.2 per cent of the population) at any one time

National Institute For Clinical Excellence 2004



  • It is difficult to give an accurate number of disabled children in England due to different data sources using different definitions of disability

Disabled children: numbers, characteristics and local service provision 2008

  • There are about 770,000 children age under 16 in the UK with a disability,  6 per cent of the child population

Papworth Trust Disability Facts and Figures2010

  • Prevalence is higher among boys (8.8 per cent) than girls (5.8 per cent)
  • Boys have a higher rate overall and are more likely than girls to experience difficulties with physical coordination; memory, concentration and learning; communication
  • Disabled children are more likely to live with low-income, deprivation, debt and poor housing.
  • 66 per cent of disabled children live in a 2 parent family.  The proportion of children  living in lone parent families (34 per cent) is greater than that for non-disabled children

Prevalence of childhood disability and the characteristics and circumstances of disabled children in the UK: secondary analysis of the Family Resources Survey Blackburn, Spencer and Read 

  • Parents of a disabled child are more likely to separate.
  • A disabled child is more likely to have a disabled brother or sister.
  • Parents of disabled children report their children face barriers not only to education, but also to taking part in leisure or play.
  • Young disabled people are more likely to experience bullying.

Fulfilling potential 2012


  • 47 per cent of disabled people currently work compared to 77 per cent of non disabled people

Labour Force Survey 2010 Q4

  • There are over 6.9 million disabled people of working age which represents 19 per cent of the working population

Disability Rights Commission, July 2008

  • Disabled people are far less likely to be in employment. The UK employment rate of working age disabled people is 47.8 per cent, compared to 75.9 per cent of non-disabled people

Annual population survey 2012

  • One in four adults with a work-limiting disability are not working but want to.  This compares with one in fifteen of those with no work-limiting disability. 
  • At all levels of qualification, the proportion of people with a work-limiting disability who lack but want paid work is much greater than for those without a work-limiting disability.
  • 60 per cent of disabled working-age adults are not in paid work compared to only 15 per cent of their non-disabled counterparts.  A third of these people - 1 million people - say that they want to work but that they have not been able to find a job


  • Disabled people are more likely to be long term unemployed and economically inactive. Over half of disabled people claiming incapacity benefits have been out of work for more than 5 years

DWP benefit figures November 2010

  • At age 26, disabled people were nearly four times as likely to be unemployed or involuntarily out of work than non-disabled people. Among those who were in employment, earnings were 11 per cent lower than for their non-disabled counterparts with the same level of educational qualifications
  • ·Employment rates differ across impairments and are particularly poor for those with learning disabilities (less than 1 in 5) and mental health problems (just over 1 in 10). The highest employment rates of over 6 in 10 exist for those with diabetes, skin conditions or chest/breathing problems

Papworth Trust Disability Facts and Figures 2010 

  • 85 per cent of people in general  feel that their employers could do more to create greater employment and career progression for disabled people,
  • 42 per cent think employers should make more reasonable adjustments for staff with disabilities

BT's 'Ready, Willing and Disabled' event at its headquarters in London on December 1, 2011


  • Disabled adults are twice as likely to have no formal qualifications as non-disabled adults, 26 per cent and 12 per cent respectively

ONS measuring national wellbeing – education and skills 2012

  • 45 per cent of disabled people said they had experienced problems at school as a consequence of their impairment

Disability Rights Commission (2002)

  • Only 1 per cent of all children in England are in special schools
  • Only 17 per cent of disabled pupils attend special schools. The remainder attend mainstream schools.

DfES, 2005

  • 26 per cent disabled people reported negative experiences in mainstream education, in part because of poor facilities and negative attitudes of other people. 

Department for Work and Pension’s report into attitudes toward disability in Britain (Grewal, Joy, Lewis, Swales and Woodfield, 2002)

  • 2.8 per cent (224,210) of pupils across all schools in England had statements of SEN
    • 54.3 per cent of pupils with statements of SEN are placed in mainstream schools
    • 38.7 per cent are in maintained special schools
    • 4.3  per cent in independent special schools,
    • 1.9 per cent in non-maintained special schools
    • 0.8 per cent in pupil referral units.

School Census 2011

  • 15 per cent of young disabled people are not in any form of education, employment or training as opposed to 7 per cent of their non-disabled peers. The gap increases between the ages of 16 – 19 to two thirds as likely (27 per cent compared to 9 per cent)

Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan - March 2009

  • Although less likely to make it to university, around 40,000 disabled people graduate each year.
  • Sixty percent have found work within six months – nearly as many as non-disabled students.
  • And graduate employment rates are much lower for wheelchair users.

Fulfilling potential 2012

Female wheelchair user with dyna bands


  • 45.9 per cent of working age disabled people are economically inactive. This figure is 2.5 times higher than that of non-disabled people (17.8 per cent)

Annual population survey March 2012

  • Around 6 million disabled people receive disability related benefits (much lower than the 11 million disabled people in the UK)

Fulfilling Potential 2011

  • Disabled people's spending power is estimated at £80 billion, and yet in 2000, three-quarters of businesses had one or more entry problems for disabled people.

Department for Work and Pensions, 2005

  • At 30 per cent, the poverty rate for disabled adults in the UK is twice that for non-disabled adults.

Employers’ Forum on Disability

  • Around half a million working-age people out of the two million claiming Disability Living Allowance are expected to lose their entitlement after 2013, when it is replaced by a more rigorously tested Personal Independence Payment.

British Social Attitudes 2012


Participation in sport or physical activity

  • 17.8% of disabled people take part in sport for 30 minutes once a week compared to 39.2% of non disabled people

Active People Survey June 2014

  • People with sensory impairments (hearing and visual impairments) have the lowest level of participation.  12% of people with a visual impairment and 10% of people with a hearing impairment take part in sport for 30 minutes once a week

Active People Survey June 2014

  • Participation among disabled people is significantly lower across all age groups compared to non-disabled people, but the difference is most notable between people aged between 20 to 25 years old

Active People Survey June 2014

  • Disabled men are more likely to take part in sport than disabled women.  20.1% of disabled men men take part in 30 minutes of sport a week compared to 15.5.% of disabled women.

Active People Survey June 2014

  • 72.1% of disabled people take part in no sport or physical activity, compared to 47.8% of non-disabled people

Active People Survey June 2014