New Study: This Is the No. 1 U.S. City for People with Disabilities
This city is ranked as the best place in the United States for people with disabilities to live—and it's not just for the weather
Relocating to a new town can be an exhilarating adventure. But there’s more to a move than plunking down in a place that happens to be one of the most popular places to live. Most people take into consideration their personal circumstances along with a wish list of wants and needs. Cleanliness, pet friendliness (who wouldn’t spoil their pooch by moving to a place with dog-friendly beaches?), affordability and even perks like amazing cuisine and entertainment all factor into the decision.
But for people with disabilities, the checklist is much larger, encompassing additional considerations that directly impact their independence, quality of life and overall health. Old and historic cities (albeit beautiful) can be an accessibility nightmare for those with mobility difficulties. Weather can greatly impact folks with heat or cold sensitivities. And air quality and altitude can significantly affect anyone with underlying breathing conditions. Access to health care is another key factor, along with the availability of essential disability benefits, which can provide income security and funding for durable medical equipment, prescription medications and in-home health aids.
When you add all this together, it can be hard to pinpoint the best place to live for people with disabilities. Thankfully, WalletHub has compiled a list of the best and worst U.S. cities for people with disabilities across three key dimensions: the economy, quality of life and health care. So if you are someone with a disability who is looking to make your next big move, this list might help you with some of your homework. Read on to find out what city took top place.
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How did the study determine the top city?
WalletHub analyzed 182 cities, which included the largest cities in the United States and at least two cities from each state. To determine the best city for people with disabilities, the study evaluated data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They ultimately took three main aspects into consideration:
- Economy: This looked at the affordability of housing, the cost of living, the employment rate and average income for people with disabilities, the cost of in-home services, the waiting times for public housing and the availability of disability insurance.
- Quality of life: This involved looking at how easy it is for people with disabilities to live and thrive in the city, including the number of wheelchair-accessible places like restaurants and parks. It also looked at the effectiveness of state Medicaid programs, how walkable the city is and the number of accessible homes for sale.
- Health care: This considered the cost of seeing a doctor, the average health insurance premiums, the number of doctors and health-care providers within the city, the number of hospitals and the quality of the public hospital system.
Each of the three categories was weighed equally at 33.33%, giving each city an overall ranking out of 100.
So, what is the best American city for people with disabilities?
According to WalletHub’s study, Scottsdale, Arizona, earns the top spot. The Southwestern city is widely regarded as an appealing place to live, thanks to its thriving cultural scene, stunning natural landscapes, strong economy and pleasant desert climate. That’s right: The climate is a draw. As anyone who’s visited Arizona knows, despite the high temperatures throughout the year, the low humidity creates a remarkably comfortable environment for those looking to put cold winters behind them. The city also offers a wide range of housing options, from grand homes to suburban and urban settings.
But what sets Scottsdale apart as an exceptional place for individuals with disabilities? To understand that, WalletHub took a closer look at the economy, quality of life and health-care factors.
The city of Scottsdale stood out for its strong economic performance, ranking an impressive 13th among all cities in this category. While there are many places with a lower cost of living (Brownsville, Texas; Huntington, West Virginia; and Jackson, Mississippi, to name a few), this category also included important aspects like the employment rate, the average earnings for people with disabilities, funding available to support in-home services (like health aids) and public-housing waitlists.
While Scottsdale doesn’t have the lowest cost of living on its own, the city does a lot to reduce the cost of living for residents with disabilities, which is evident through its public transit program. Not only does it offer free, wheelchair-accessible trolleys that go throughout the downtown area, but it also has several para-transit options. Additionally, seniors and residents with disabilities can get vouchers that allow them to take Uber, Lyft or a taxi at a more affordable price. (All that is worth considering if you’re trying to land on the best place to retire too.)
For individuals concerned about overall affordability as a person with a disability, Scottsdale might be a top contender, although places like Virginia Beach, Virginia; Plano, Texas; Columbia, Maryland; and Overland Park, Kansas, also rank exceptionally high in this category.
Quality of life
Within the quality of life category, WalletHub investigated elements that allow people with disabilities to have fulfilling social and recreational opportunities within the city. Scottsdale’s downtown area, also known as Old Town Scottsdale, is particularly well-suited for individuals with disabilities, as it condenses all essential amenities into a compact, easily navigable 1-square-mile neighborhood. Here, you will find top-tier hotels, restaurants, shops, art galleries and attractions, many of which are accessible.
Furthermore, Scottsdale demonstrates a strong commitment to inclusivity, offering comprehensive adaptive services tailored to the needs of individuals with disabilities. This initiative makes it easier for residents to get support when participating in a wide range of parks and recreation, human services, leisure education and community services programs. Along with this, the city offers an upgraded, fully accessible playground at Chaparral Park that has equipment that children and parents of all ability levels can enjoy.
Moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, for better health care can be a compelling option, thanks to the city’s robust and diverse health-care ecosystem. The Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned medical institution, has a significant presence in Scottsdale and is celebrated for its excellence in patient care, research and medical innovation. Its cutting-edge treatments and access to leading medical experts make it a sought-after destination for those in need of specialized care. Additionally, HonorHealth, a prominent health-care network in the region, offers a wide range of medical services, from primary care to specialized treatments, with a strong commitment to patient-centered care.
As a whole, Scottsdale ranked remarkably well in the health-care category, coming in at No. 7 out of 182. It even beat out many major U.S. cities that are widely known for stellar health care, including Boston, Philadelphia, Denver and Chicago.
What other cities round out the top 10?
If Scottsdale isn’t your dream location, don’t fret. There are plenty of other great places to move in the United States if you have a disability. Here’s which cities made the top 10:
- Scottsdale, Arizona
- St. Louis
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Columbia, Maryland
- Chandler, Arizona
- Huntington Beach, California
- Overland Park, Kansas
Each of these cities presents unique advantages, making them worth considering if you’re a person with a disability seeking a new place to call home. Take, for instance, Denver. If you’re looking to put down roots somewhere other than the Southwest, you may appreciate this more northern city. It shares a dry, arid climate with Scottsdale, though it generally comes with a higher cost of living (Denver scored 66 in the economy category, compared with Scottsdale’s 13). Minneapolis is even less affordable—coming in with a whopping score of 156 in the economy category—but it makes up for that with incredibly high scores in the quality of life and health-care categories.
Overall, the choice of where to move is incredibly individualized, but with any luck, this list will help you narrow down your options and choose somewhere that is perfect for you. And hey, if you’re flying to your new home, make sure you book a flight with the best airline for disabled passengers.