Understanding disability

The way disability is understood has been changing and evolving, especially over the last few decades. The fight for equal rights has led to legislation, court cases, guidance, and settlements. We no longer adhere to a medical model that treats disability as a problem with the person. Rather, we see functional limitations as a normal part of the human experience. Disability is something most people will experience at some point in their life, either directly, or through the experiences of a loved one.

Featured resources to learn more about how people who experience disability have been treated over time are included below. In addition, this page provides a breakdown of the population of PCC students who have disclosed a disability to request accommodation. Note that there are many more individuals who experience disability who elect to disclose.

Approaching disability from a person-first perspective
Data from the US Census

According to the US Census Bureau, 57 Million people living in the United States in 2010 experienced disability. They represented 19 percent of the civilian non-institutionalized population.

Nearly one third (27.3%) of adults in Oregon have disabilities, according to 2012 data. (See full PDF of Report from 2014)

Trends in the student population

Approximately 1,600 students have documentation of disability on file, and are registered for PCC courses in any given term.

  • Many attend courses on more than one campus.
  • Many experience disability in multiple ways.
  • Some choose to engage in the accommodation process, some do not.
  • Disability intersects with other aspects of identity such as race, gender, socio-economic status, etc.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Higher Education and Disability: Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students”.

Highlights from the GAO article
  • In general, students with disabilities are similar to their peers without disabilities.
  • More students with disabilities are pursuing higher education.
  • Veterans with acquired disabilities are enrolling at high rates.
  • Assistive technology has expanded educational opportunities.
  • Awareness of disability and accessibility needs to increase.


Information related to specific sub-populations