CHICAGO (CBS) — Census takers finally will begin knocking on doors in certain parts of the U.S. next week, after months-long delays because of the pandemic.
The Chicago area won’t see any census takers just yet, so the push continues for people to self-respond online.
The Morning Insiders are particularly focused on one group that’s considered difficult to count. CBS 2’s Lauren Victory shows us the struggle to make sure people with disabilities aren’t missed.
“I would like to do something that helps people,” said Juliette Walker, who is legally blind.
It’s no wonder she wants to help people. Walker used to be in education.
Her big smile dropped one day in the classroom, when she realized she couldn’t see the books she was using to teach her students.
“Things on printed paper is difficult for me,” she said.
So when the mailed invitation to fill out the 2020 Census came, Walker said, “I was able to blow it up with an app that I have on my phone.”
Nearly 5% of Americans are visually impaired. Another 6% are considered deaf or hard of hearing. And over 50 million more Americans are living with other disabilities. They’re all part of a community the U.S. Census Bureau considers hard to count.
“I wouldn’t say the word vicious circle, but it’s a dangerous one,” said Angela Williams, president and CEO of Easterseals, which provides services to people of all ages with disabilities.
The huge Chicago-based non-profit is pushing for 2020 Census participation through its 68 affiliates nationwide.
“If people with disabilities aren’t counted, and the money doesn’t come in to support them, then they fall through the cracks,” Williams said.
While the Census provides a large print guide for responding to the Census, as Walker discovered, the 2020 Census doesn’t specifically ask about disabilities.
“You need to know how many people in this world are deaf, blind, physically challenged,” Walker said.
It turns out that data is collected in other, smaller Census surveys.
Why is Easterseals so worried this year?
“A lot of our revenue from Easterseals is derived from Medicaid funding,” Williams said, describing that dangerous circle she referred to. And the next decade of federal funding for Medicaid – special education grants, vocational training, and more – is proportionally allocated based on 2020 state and city population counts.
“We don’t want the message to be lost,” Williams said.
At least we can check another person off the list.
“I did complete the Census after I got off the phone with you,” Walker said.
Illinois’s census response rate is above the national average right now, at 66.7%, but Chicago is not doing as great, with a 54.6% response rate. The average national response rate is 62%.
Responding to the U.S. Census is required by law.