Outcome Data for Students with Low-Incidence Disabilities, 2006

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 defines low-incidence disabilities as “a visual or hearing impairment, or simultaneous visual and hearing impairments; a significant cognitive impairment; or any impairment for which a small number of personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge are needed in order for children with that impairment to receive early intervention services or a free appropriate public education” (20 U.S.C. 1462 § 662(c)(3)). In the United States today, children with low-incidence disabilities comprise less than one percent of the estimated resident school-age population (US Department of Education, 2003).

A review of statistical information was obtained from several websites such as the Social Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, National Longitudinal Transition Study - 2, U.S. Department of Justice, and the Twenty-Fifth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  The rationale for this review was to obtain the most up to date statistical information regarding students with low-incidence disabilities for the areas of education, employment and community access. The following summary highlights each of these areas as the statistics reveal challenges faced by youth and adults with low-incidence disabilities in living their own lives.  The need for an education that considers each student’s unique qualities is essential.  Employment issues faced by young adults from this population are that many are unemployed or underemployed.  Access within the community that supports independent living to the greatest extent possible is critical to NCSSD’s overarching mission. 

The National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities has as its goal to increase the nation’s capacity to provide educational and other services to infants, children, and youth with deafness, blindness, deaf-blindness and severe disabilities through Information Exchange, Local Support, Teacher Training, and Knowledge Advancement.  For more information regarding other issues indicative of students with low-incidence disabilities, visit the National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities website: www.unco.edu/ncssd.


  • Students with low-incidence disabilities tend to be educated outside the general classroom for part of their school day (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). 
  • Less than 50% of students with low-incidence disabilities are graduating from high school with a diploma and 20% or below receive a certificate of attendance (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005).
  • Students with low-incidence disabilities are participating in post-secondary education, although at levels lower than other students with high-incidence disabilities and those without disabilities (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine, 2005). 


  • Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that in 2002, an estimated 30.9 percent of civilian non-institutionalized people with disabilities in the United States, age 18-24, were employed, compared to 84.7 percent of those without disabilities (Houtenville, 2003).
  • Individuals with low-incidence disabilities account for 36.7% of persons receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), each receiving a federal stipend averaging $384 per month (Social Security Administration, 2004).
  • Youth with low-incidence disabilities show the lowest rates of engagement in school, work, or preparation for work shortly after high school of all disability categories (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).
  • Twenty-seven to 47% of youth with low-incidence disabilities worked 35 or more hours per week in 2003 (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).
  • The percentage of the federal workforce has decreased from 1994 to 2003 for adults with low-incidence disabilities (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2003).
  • Thirty-one percent of State inmates and 23.4% of Federal inmates reported having some type of disability (i.e., speech, learning, hearing, vision, physical, and mental).   Approximately 14% of State inmates and 13% of Federal inmates reported having either a hearing or vision loss, while 14.8% of State and Federal inmates reported having a mental condition (Maruschak & Beck, 2001).  

Community Access

  • Less than half (13.1% to 44.5%) of youth with low-incidence disabilities participate in one or more community groups (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).
  • More than 75% of out-of-school youth with low-incidence disabilities lived with a parent or guardian in 2003 (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).
  • Approximately 20% of youth with low-incidence disabilities have some trouble with communication and functioning engagements, while 1% experience major communication and functional engagement barriers (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).


Houtenville, Andrew J. (2006). Disability Statistics in the United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, www.disabilitystatistics.org. Posted May 15, 2003. Accessed February 27, 2006.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Text from: United States Code Service. Available from: LexisNexis™ Congressional (Online Service). Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service.

Maruschak, L. M., & Beck, A. J. (2001). Medical problems of inmates. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, NCJ 181644. Retrieved January 13, 2006 from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/mpi97.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics. (2004). Digest of education statistics, 2004: Chapter 2, elementary and secondary education Retrieved January 1, 2006 from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/tables/dt04_109.asp

Social Security Administration. (August, 2004). Annual statistical report on the social security disability insurance program. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (2003). 25th annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Retrieved January 2, 2006 from http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2003/index.html

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2003). Annual report on the federal work force fiscal year 2003.  Retrieved January 3, 2006 from http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/fsp2003/three/table2.html

Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., Garza, N., & Levine, P. (2005). After high school: A first look at the postschool experiences of youth with disabilities. A report from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retreived April 26, 2005 from http://www.nlts2.org/pdfs/afterhighschool_report.pdf