2020’s Best & Worst Cities for People with Disabilities

Adam McCann, Financial Writer  •  Sep 29, 2020 

When searching for a new home, people with disabilities often have a longer and more complicated list of considerations compared with other individuals. In addition to common wish-list items, such as reliable public transportation and diverse entertainment options, people with disabilities also must think about things like the accessibility of facilities or even the cleanliness of the air. In 2020, they’ll also need to consider how well the city is handling COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four U.S. adults, or 61 million total, have a disability that impacts their major activities. And among Americans age 65 and older, that number rises to two in five. Keeping up with the costs of a disability can be very expensive. The average monthly Social Security disability benefit as of August 2020 was only $1,126.02. That makes a yearly income of $13,512.24, only a few hundred dollars above the federal poverty line for a single individual at $12,760.

Although disability benefits can increase based on inflation, many people with disabilities rely on low cost of living and wages for financial relief. In 2019, over 5.8 million people with disabilities were employed. Naturally, there are less employment opportunities for people with disabilities and more barriers to securing a job.

With the physical and economic challenges of managing a disability in mind, WalletHub compared more than 180 most populated cities across 34 key indicators of disability-friendliness. Our data set ranges from physicians per capita to rate of workers with disabilities to park accessibility. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.

1 Main Findings 2 Ask The Experts

Main Findings

In the overall ranking below, readers who are particularly interested in the best places to live on disability income should focus on the “Economy” category. Likewise, those who place a higher premium on quality of medical care should focus on the “Health Care” category.

Best & Worst Cities for People with Disabilities

Overall Rank
(1 = Best)
City Overall Score ‘Economy’ Rank ‘Quality of Life’ Rank ‘Health Care’ Rank
1 Scottsdale, AZ 57.20 10 39 35
2 St. Louis, MO 57.03 125 12 5
3 South Burlington, VT 56.40 3 36 116
4 Huntington Beach, CA 56.07 25 31 39
5 Bismarck, ND 55.90 18 153 1
6 Minneapolis, MN 55.79 162 9 2
7 Denver, CO 54.83 91 10 54
8 Overland Park, KS 54.81 2 171 8
9 San Francisco, CA 54.54 156 2 64
10 Pittsburgh, PA 54.52 106 21 20
11 Chandler, AZ 54.49 12 76 40
12 St. Paul, MN 54.23 142 42 3
13 Springfield, MO 54.20 85 51 15
14 Lexington-Fayette, KY 54.19 39 70 23
15 St. Petersburg, FL 54.14 11 53 102
16 Omaha, NE 54.04 79 59 14
17 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 53.70 9 72 112
18 Tempe, AZ 53.48 50 61 44
19 Kansas City, MO 53.25 33 78 38
20 Virginia Beach, VA 53.24 1 88 163
21 Tucson, AZ 52.95 124 8 94
22 Jacksonville, FL 52.92 20 104 24
23 Fort Lauderdale, FL 52.73 87 16 117
24 Lincoln, NE 52.64 69 86 18
25 Des Moines, IA 52.61 38 115 10
26 Fargo, ND 52.50 66 155 4
27 Columbus, OH 52.37 26 56 130
28 Gilbert, AZ 52.30 24 106 31
29 Plano, TX 52.29 5 135 48
30 Orlando, FL 52.20 67 30 121
31 Miami, FL 52.08 134 4 156
32 Tampa, FL 52.00 57 45 102
33 Toledo, OH 51.95 93 44 60
34 Portland, ME 51.87 122 64 17
35 Glendale, CA 51.86 154 13 46
36 San Antonio, TX 51.83 54 92 36
37 Philadelphia, PA 51.78 170 7 56
38 Irvine, CA 51.72 126 41 32
39 Riverside, CA 51.69 36 54 143
40 Columbia, MD 51.66 8 111 99
41 Peoria, AZ 51.63 27 120 37
42 Louisville, KY 51.50 53 43 136
43 Oakland, CA 51.48 174 3 83
44 Buffalo, NY 51.48 89 20 142
45 Salt Lake City, UT 51.44 109 14 138
46 Oceanside, CA 51.41 48 80 76
47 Yonkers, NY 51.39 44 63 128
48 Spokane, WA 51.31 108 57 47
49 Austin, TX 51.30 28 79 101
50 Cleveland, OH 51.27 157 15 61
51 Portland, OR 51.24 173 1 139
52 San Diego, CA 51.19 103 46 74
53 Little Rock, AR 51.16 51 143 16
54 Fremont, CA 51.12 47 95 49
54 Rochester, NY 51.12 135 6 155
56 Cincinnati, OH 50.95 102 19 150
57 Fort Smith, AR 50.91 84 93 41
58 Sacramento, CA 50.89 117 25 100
59 Jersey City, NJ 50.87 132 26 88
60 Colorado Springs, CO 50.86 71 71 82
61 Grand Rapids, MI 50.81 115 24 105
62 Milwaukee, WI 50.76 139 67 19
63 Glendale, AZ 50.73 58 98 50
64 Mesa, AZ 50.58 82 81 52
65 Madison, WI 50.51 107 62 69
66 Anaheim, CA 50.49 121 49 59
67 Indianapolis, IN 50.39 112 84 22
68 Albuquerque, NM 50.38 120 74 26
69 Billings, MT 50.31 52 169 12
70 Vancouver, WA 50.23 119 27 111
71 Grand Prairie, TX 50.18 7 175 109
72 Lubbock, TX 50.16 19 142 73
73 Nashua, NH 50.14 131 38 78
74 Wichita, KS 50.12 37 146 42
75 Henderson, NV 50.11 30 103 98
76 Cedar Rapids, IA 50.06 42 151 33
77 Charleston, WV 50.06 95 110 29
78 San Jose, CA 50.04 137 48 55
79 Chicago, IL 50.02 150 32 63
80 New York, NY 50.00 128 23 132
81 Sioux Falls, SD 49.99 104 105 21
82 Missoula, MT 49.94 155 83 9
83 Modesto, CA 49.86 40 75 152
84 Santa Clarita, CA 49.86 80 107 43
85 Seattle, WA 49.69 158 35 53
86 Reno, NV 49.68 98 50 133
87 Long Beach, CA 49.59 165 29 58
88 Santa Ana, CA 49.42 147 37 84
89 Honolulu, HI 49.40 130 11 177
90 Baltimore, MD 49.39 152 18 125
91 Corpus Christi, TX 49.32 15 158 70
92 Washington, DC 49.26 181 5 65
93 Tacoma, WA 49.25 77 77 118
94 Casper, WY 49.21 100 132 28
95 Augusta, GA 49.12 63 140 51
96 Las Vegas, NV 49.00 118 40 135
96 Salem, OR 49.00 114 55 120
98 Port St. Lucie, FL 48.87 6 168 151
99 Oklahoma City, OK 48.75 29 152 81
100 Phoenix, AZ 48.70 97 101 66
101 Los Angeles, CA 48.62 172 22 77
102 Amarillo, TX 48.60 17 165 106
103 Lewiston, ME 48.55 160 112 7
104 Charleston, SC 48.54 78 89 108
105 Durham, NC 48.50 62 118 89
106 Chesapeake, VA 48.48 4 163 159
107 Fort Worth, TX 48.42 22 138 126
108 Bakersfield, CA 48.36 55 96 153
109 Pembroke Pines, FL 48.28 60 128 90
110 Columbus, GA 48.26 64 137 85
111 Akron, OH 48.22 70 102 123
112 Las Cruces, NM 48.12 164 144 6
113 Boise, ID 48.10 140 117 13
114 Tulsa, OK 48.05 76 130 68
115 Raleigh, NC 48.03 45 99 167
116 Arlington, TX 48.01 13 170 104
117 Nashville, TN 47.91 96 100 93
118 Aurora, CO 47.90 90 126 62
119 Chula Vista, CA 47.87 92 124 67
120 Ontario, CA 47.68 56 116 148
120 West Valley City, UT 47.68 21 131 168
122 Rapid City, SD 47.62 127 91 80
123 Fresno, CA 47.58 168 60 75
124 Huntington, WV 47.51 171 58 57
125 Pearl City, HI 47.50 16 139 173
126 Houston, TX 47.39 49 127 140
127 Atlanta, GA 47.37 167 17 171
128 Chattanooga, TN 47.31 146 66 124
129 Laredo, TX 47.30 86 172 27
130 Santa Rosa, CA 47.30 138 69 113
131 Stockton, CA 47.27 148 65 115
132 Aurora, IL 47.22 43 176 71
133 El Paso, TX 47.19 32 161 114
134 Irving, TX 47.16 14 174 127
135 Manchester, NH 47.11 111 82 141
136 Garden Grove, CA 46.94 166 85 45
137 Anchorage, AK 46.83 23 178 87
138 Oxnard, CA 46.68 75 109 164
139 Dallas, TX 46.66 61 123 157
140 Richmond, VA 46.59 163 28 175
141 Wilmington, DE 46.51 176 73 34
142 Tallahassee, FL 46.28 94 141 119
143 Detroit, MI 46.22 175 46 92
144 Baton Rouge, LA 46.19 149 87 91
145 New Orleans, LA 46.09 151 52 172
146 Cheyenne, WY 46.02 133 164 30
147 Newport News, VA 46.00 34 147 169
148 Montgomery, AL 45.98 41 166 161
149 Hialeah, FL 45.84 83 122 162
150 Newark, NJ 45.81 169 68 107
151 Warwick, RI 45.75 35 157 170
152 Boston, MA 45.70 180 33 79
153 Fort Wayne, IN 45.68 129 108 110
154 Huntsville, AL 45.63 59 156 158
155 Shreveport, LA 45.61 122 149 72
156 Charlotte, NC 45.54 73 119 176
157 Jackson, MS 45.49 113 182 11
158 Mobile, AL 45.39 68 159 166
159 Fontana, CA 45.38 74 154 146
160 Burlington, VT 45.29 179 34 122
161 Garland, TX 45.15 31 180 134
162 Columbia, SC 45.08 144 121 86
163 Nampa, ID 45.04 145 173 25
164 Birmingham, AL 45.03 110 133 129
165 Cape Coral, FL 44.83 72 150 165
166 Fayetteville, NC 44.80 81 136 178
167 Brownsville, TX 44.68 105 167 95
168 Norfolk, VA 44.61 116 97 174
169 Dover, DE 44.58 141 129 97
170 Memphis, TN 44.49 136 134 96
171 North Las Vegas, NV 44.42 88 162 145
172 Greensboro, NC 44.13 65 148 182
173 Moreno Valley, CA 44.05 99 160 149
174 Knoxville, TN 43.87 153 113 131
175 Juneau, AK 43.73 46 181 160
176 Worcester, MA 43.35 161 114 137
177 San Bernardino, CA 43.26 143 125 154
178 Winston-Salem, NC 41.23 101 177 181
179 New Haven, CT 40.58 182 94 144
180 Providence, RI 40.47 177 90 179
181 Gulfport, MS 39.98 159 179 147
182 Bridgeport, CT 38.06 178 145 180

Ask The Experts

Having a disability can be both financially and physically burdensome. In light of these challenges, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What are some unique financial challenges faced by people with disabilities, particularly those who rely on government assistance? How can they be overcome?
  2. In evaluating the best cities for people with disabilities, what are the top five indicators?
  3. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was adopted nearly three decades ago. What 21st century improvements should be made, if any, to this important act?
  4. What local policies and programs have proven effective in increasing inclusion of and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities?
  5. What can be done to facilitate better access to health care, testing sites and critical information when it comes to COVID-19 for people with disabilities?

    More Experts

    Methodology

    To determine the most livable places for people with disabilities, WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across three key dimensions: 1) Economy, 2) Quality of Life and 3) Health Care.

    We evaluated those dimensions using 34 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for people with disabilities. Please note that data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only. For metrics marked with two asterisks (**), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.

    Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded cities in the surrounding metro area.

    Economy – Points: 33.33

    • Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
      Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Housing Costs (accounts for both rental and sale prices) / Median Annual Household Income.
    • Cost of Living: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
    • Median Earnings for People with Disabilities: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
    • Employment Rate for People with Disabilities: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
    • Share of People with Disabilities Living in Poverty: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
    • Share of Homeless People with Disabilities: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
    • Annual Cost of In-Home Services: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
      Note: In-home, or homemaker services, include basic household assistance such as shopping, laundry, personal hygiene and meal preparation.
    • Presence of CDC Funding for Disability & Health Programs: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
      Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of funding for disability and health programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • Presence of Public-Housing Waiting List for Seniors/People with Disabilities: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
      Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of public-housing waiting lists that are currently open for seniors and people with disabilities. Public Housing is a federal program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    • Presence of “Disability Insurance” Programs: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
    • Presence of Employment First: Half* Weight (~1.39 Points)
      This metric measures the presence or absence of employment first activity, executive order or legislation in a state. The Employment First Program facilitates inclusion of people with significant disabilities in the workplace, encouraging integrated employment as the first and preferred option for youth and adults with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems.

    Quality of Life – Points: 33.33

    • Share of People with Disabilities: Double Weight (~6.06 Points)
    • Special-Education Teachers per 1,000 School-Aged People with Disabilities: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    • Graduation Rate for Students with Disabilities: Half* Weight (~1.52 Points)
    • Wheelchair-Accessible Restaurants per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    • Wheelchair-Accessible Grocery Stores per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    • Wheelchair-Accessible Art, Entertainment & Recreational Establishments per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    • Wheelchair-Accessible Trails per Capita**: Half* Weight (~1.52 Points)
    • Share of Population with Walkable Park Access: Half Weight (~1.52 Points)
    • Walkability: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    • Effectiveness of State Medicaid Programs: Full* Weight (~3.03 Points)
      Note: This metric is based on the annual ranking of how well state Medicaid programs serve Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD).
    • Share of Young Buildings: Half Weight (~1.52 Points)
      Note: This metric considers the difficulty in making older buildings accessible and accounts for buildings built in 2000 or later.
    • Share of Accessible Homes Listed on Redfin.com: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)

    Health Care – Points: 33.33

    • WalletHub “States with the Best Health Infrastructure for Coronavirus” Score: Triple* Weight (~9.52 Points)
      Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best Health Infrastructure for Coronavirus” ranking.
    • Cost of Doctor Visit: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
    • Average Per-Person Health-Insurance Premium: Half* Weight (~1.59 Points)
    • Family Medicine Physicians per Capita: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
    • Occupational Therapists per Capita: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
    • Home Health Aides & Personal Care Aides per Capita: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
      Note: Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities.
    • WalletHub “Doctors” Ranking: Half* Weight (~1.59 Points)
    • WalletHub “Nurses” Ranking: Half* Weight (~1.59 Points)
    • Hospitals per Capita: Half* Weight (~1.59 Points)
    • Quality of Public Hospital System: Half* Weight (~1.59 Points)
    • Share of Uninsured Population: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)

     Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Education Statistics, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Trust For Public Land, Genworth Financial, United Cerebral Palsy, APSE - Association of People Supporting Employment First, WalkScore, Yelp, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Affordable Housing Online, Kaiser Family Foundation, Eligibility.com, Redfin and WalletHub research.