The Best and Worst Cities for People With Disabilities

person in a wheelchair

Some cities make it easier than others to live with a disability. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

For an average person, the search for a place to call home will include what most would categorize as normal wish-list items: affordability, job opportunities, and extracurricular activities. But people with disabilities must consider other detailed factors. Elements, such as the price of Medicaid, the number of accessible restaurants and transportation options, and other people with disabilities in the area all matter to those dealing with permanent ailments.

Funding a disability requires an endless flow of cash. Low disability monthly income amounts make it tough to withstand such pressures while also attempting to enjoy a good quality of life. That’s especially true when considering the need for substantial and consistent health care on such a tight budget.

Progress has been made for people with disabilities with the public simply being more open to incorporating workplace accommodations and other various adaptations to engage a broader workforce. Still, the unemployment rate for disabled workers is at 10.7% nationally as of 2015. It’s clear some cities have yet to board the inclusion train, while others are well on their way to accommodation station.

WalletHub compared 150 cities to determine the most disability-friendly locations nationwide. If you want to live a life of comfort, move to the Midwest and Western regions. But don’t head north looking for ease and accessibility. Let’s see whether your city is on the right or wrong track for disability accommodations. First, we’ll look at the 10 best cities, and then we’ll head to the 10 on the bottom of the list.

10. Chandler, Arizona

rock formation in Arizona

Arizona | WhiteOceanPhotography/Shutterstock

Arizona is home to vast desert lands and Western influences. Chandler, Arizona, a suburb southeast of Phoenix, is also quite welcoming to people with disabilities. The median household income of working-age people with disabilities in Arizona was $40,300 in 2014. And the employment rate of people with disabilities was 33.2%. Considering the cost of living and weather characteristics in Chandler, residents of this city fare far better than most when it comes to disability services.

9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

oklahoma city from the sky

Oklahoma City | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In Oklahoma City, 9.8% of people are living with a disability. WalletHub notes that Oklahoma City has the highest number of doctors per capita but one of the lowest percentages of walkable trails available to those with mobility restrictions. So those who favor health care over comfort should consider Oklahoma City.

8. Irvine, California

California coast

The coast of California | Matt Snodderly/Shutterstock

Surprise, surprise. It will cost people of all abilities to live in Irvine, California. But according to WalletHub, Irvine ranks high for health care opportunities and quality of life, which is of utmost importance to those with a disability. You can be a trendsetter for people with disabilities in the Irvine area, too. Only 3% of the population reported having a disability there.

The next city is a popular tourist destination but could become a permanent home for disabled workers looking for happiness.

7. Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii | Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Finding your forever location often requires a little give and take. A home in Honolulu will cost you an average of $635,000, even though the median annual household income for people with disabilities in Hawaii is $66,100, as of 2014. Although this city doesn’t score exceptionally high in economy metrics, according to WalletHub, its No. 1 quality-of-life ranking was enough to land it solidly in the top 10 cities for people with disabilities.

6. Huntington Beach, California

Patient tells the doctor about her health

A woman talks to her doctor about insurance options. |

WalletHub ranks Huntington Beach as the sixth best city to live for people with disabilities. It ranks pretty well for cost of living and quality of life. But what puts Huntington Beach in such a high spot is its No. 7 score in health care.

5. Peoria, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona, with its downtown lit

Peoria is a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. |

According to Arizona’s Department of Economic Security Developmental Disabilities program, almost all (99%) of those enrolled in the service live in their own homes and communities rather than institutional settings. Peoria’s noble quality of life, economic security, and health care ratings by WalletHub all support this fact. Even better, Peoria owns the third-lowest percentage of people with disabilities living in poverty.

4. Gilbert, Arizona

woman helping senior woman

Gilbert, Arizona, makes living with a disability affordable. |

It’s pretty clear by now that Arizona is a shining beacon of hope for people with disabilities in the U.S. Gilbert, another suburb of Phoenix, continues to follow suit. WalletHub noted its high employment rate, ranking No. 4 over all other cities analyzed, for people with disabilities.

3. Lincoln, Nebraska         

Nebraska sign board on a empty road

Lincoln, Nebraska, is the third best city for people with disabilities. |

This Midwestern town is a viable option for those living with disabilities. Lincoln enjoys a lower cost of living than most and a high employment rate for those with disabilities. Also, WalletHub has ranked Nebraska as one of the top 15 states to practice medicine. Therefore, residents have plenty of access to primary care doctors and health services.

2. Scottsdale, Arizona

holding hands

Scottsdale is yet another Arizona city catering to people with disabilities. |

In Scottsdale, only about 5.2% of the population has a disability. And those looking to live off of disability income should choose this city. Scottsdale has the second-best economy rating in the U.S., according to WalletHub.

But our No. 1 city for people with disabilities outranks even Scottsdale.

1. Overland Park, Kansas

kansas sign

A fan of the Kansas Jayhawks shows support. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It’s middle America’s time to shine. Overland Park, Kansas, nabs the list’s top spot for its high scores in WalletHub’s economy and heath care metrics, though the city’s quality of life ranking was just 78th. It also had the fifth-lowest percentage of people with disabilities living in poverty.

Next up are the 10 worst cities for people with disabilities. We’ll start in the South.

10. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem, NC, USA

A view of Winston-Salem, North Carolina | Pollard

Winston-Salem is the only Carolina city in the bottom 10. Years ago, this city saw success because of the tobacco boom and the local company that produced Camel cigarettes. Today, it falls short in all categories, especially health care, as the access to hospitals and doctors is limited.

9. Norfolk, Virginia

Rear view of a loving couple sitting on a rampart

Virginia is not for lovers when it comes to disability accommodations. |

Norfolk, Virginia, is a city that’s quite expensive to live in. When it comes to quality of life for those with a disability, WalletHub ranks it low. And United Cerebral Palsy’s 2015 Case for Inclusion ranks Virginia as a state 41st nationally when it comes to promoting independence and reaching those in need with various disability services and programs.

8. Jersey City, New Jersey

Jersey City skyline

The skyline of Jersey City, New Jersey | Agresti Realty

Jersey City is the first Northeastern town on our worst-of list for people with disabilities. It’s an urban manufacturing town known for its location on the Hudson River. Whether you’re in this town, or its sister city that’s next on this list, people with disabilities living there face economical and health care hardships, according to WalletHub.

7. Newark, New Jersey

Newark skyline at night

The Newark skyline |

Newark beats Jersey City, albeit barely, as one of the worst cities for people with disabilities. Located just outside New York City, it’s likely residents here will feel the weighty pull of high living expenses, as well as poor health care services. However, easy rail access and transportation methods save it from being the absolute worst city to reside. WalletHub does score it eighth out of the 150 cities for quality of life.

6. Memphis, Tennessee

man singing in memphis

A performance in Memphis | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Memphis is singing the blues in all three categories WalletHub analyzed. Not only will people with disabilities be faced with a higher cost of living than most of its neighbors, but their quality of life and access to good doctors will fall short there, too.

5. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo on the road

Even the buffalo don’t want to live in Buffalo, New York. | Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Swinging back east, residents in Buffalo feel the sting of a disability worse than their friends in Jersey. Doctor checkups might put a strain on your wallet, according to WalletHub. Plus, with 112 inches of annual snowfall, just getting around might be difficult.

4. Rochester, New York

University of Rochester

University of Rochester |

Rochester is definitely not the most disability-friendly. With the highest percentage of disabled residents living below the poverty line, according to WalletHub, people with disabilities struggle to juggle health care bills, living expenses typical of the Northeast, and job opportunities that meet their needs.

Unfortunately, this next city doesn’t score much better in the poverty category.

3. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence skyline

Providence, Rhode Island |

Those in Providence are fifth worst, according to WalletHub, regarding the percentage of people with disabilities falling below the poverty line. Providence’s near-last place finish in the economy metric, as well as a positively grotesque health care score, lands it just outside the top two overall.

2. Anchorage, Alaska

moose in Anchorage

Moose check out downtown Anchorage. |

Not only does the Alaskan weather make mobility tough for those with disabilities, but WalletHub scores Anchorage as the second worst city for highest cost of doctor visits. Plus, it lands in the five worst cities for the cost of in-home services. And it’s second to last in WalletHub’s quality of life metric.

1. Worcester, Massachusetts

Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Worcester, Massachusetts | Pavone

Of all 150 cities WalletHub analyzed, Worcester has the most work to do to accommodate people with disabilities. It ranks dead last in economic opportunities and cost of living. Fortunately, the state government recently increased efforts to educate in hiring and training people with disabilities, so here’s hoping its dismal disability rating is only fleeting.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

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