Assessment of Idahoans With Disabilities: State Independent Council Survey

Bradley E. Smith, Boise State University
Carole Nemnich, Boise State University


The data for the survey of Idahoans with disabilities for the State Independent Living Council (SILC) was collected between December 12th, 2004 and January 4th, 2005 by Clearwater Research of Boise, Idaho. The Social Science Research Center at Boise State University was contracted by SILC to coordinate the survey for the council. Funding was provided by SILC and the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

For the survey 9,027 calls were placed within the state of Idaho using random digit dialing. The survey yielded 1,533 households with no members having a disability and 1,216 households with one or more individuals indicating a disability. Of the 44% of households with a member with a disability, 37% had an adult with a disability. Following the “screener” portion of the survey, 581 adult respondents with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), completed the entire survey.

Respondents to the survey sometimes indicated that they had more than one disability during the screener portion of the survey. The most frequently occurring disabilities were mental illness (19.2%), followed by difficulty walking (15.1%), and learning disorders (14.3%).

When respondents with disabilities were asked what the most important problem they face is, almost 29% indicated physical health problems associated with their disability. When respondents were asked what the most important problem people with disabilities face, in general, almost 29 did not know or were unsure. However, more than 15% indicated that they perceived access to services and places as the most significant problem people with disabilities face in general.

Respondents with disabilities were also asked to indicate their ability to live independently. About 83% of respondents indicated they live very independently or somewhat independently.

The survey also asked respondents with disabilities to indicate their employment status. More than 26% indicated that they were retired, 20% were employed full-time, and 10% were employed part-time. More than 17% were unable to work. When retirees were removed from the sample, about 27% of respondents were employed full-time, more than 13% were employed part-time, and more than 23 % were unable to work.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this survey was capturing how many people with disabilities in the state have medical coverage or benefits. More than 40% of respondents had some form of private insurance, more than 27% had Medicare, 7% had Medicaid, and almost 13% had no medical insurance or benefits. When the same respondents were asked if they had adequate health coverage or benefits, more than 61% strongly agreed or agreed. However, when respondents were asked if they had postponed seeking health care one or more times in the last year, more than 43% indicated they had postponed seeking health care at least once in the last year.

One of the most surprising findings of the survey was that more than 76% of respondents indicated that they had voted in an election in the last year, indicating that people with disabilities in Idaho are highly civically engaged.

Of the 172 respondents that used an assistive technology, 43 (25%) used a device to assist with mobility and 40 (more than 23%) used hearing aids or other devices to assist with hearing or deafness.