Youth with Disabilities

Students and persons with disabilities may face unique challenges to achieving their educational and workforce aspirations due to lack of access to the general education curriculum and/or the necessary supports for college and career readiness and success.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “students with disabilities” refers to students who receive special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or who receive related services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In 2015–16, the number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services under IDEA was 6.6 million, or about 13% of all public school students.

  • Students with disabilities graduate from high school at lower rates than the general population. During the 2015–16 school year, the high school graduation rate for all students reached an all-time high of 84%, compared to 66% for students with disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities enroll in postsecondary education at similar rates as their peers without disabilities yet are less likely to earn a degree. In 2016, the percentage of people with and without disabilities ages 21 to 64 with only some college or an associate’s degree was 31.5%. However, the percentage of people with disabilities ages 21 to 64 with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of degree attainment was 14% compared with 33.8% of people without disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities are less likely to be employed as adults than their peers without disabilities. In 2016, the employment rate for people with disabilities ages 21 to 64 was less than half than for people without disabilities (36.2% and 78.9%, respectively).


results in Youth with Disabilities.