Here Are the Best — and Worst — U.S. Cities for People With Disabilities

Scottsdale, Arizona, is the best city for people with disabilities.
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Deciding where to live is always hard, but it’s especially hard with a disability. We have so many more things to think about, like finding accessible buildings, accessible public transportation, and good medical care.

However, this should help: The financial site Wallethub has ranked 182 U.S. cities based on some of the unique concerns of people with disabilities. Specifically, it looked at factors pertaining to each city’s economy, quality of life if you have a disability, and health care quality and access.

Scottsdale, Arizona (pictured above) comes in at No. 1. Here are the top 10:

  1. Scottsdale, AZ
  2. Denver, CO
  3. Minneapolis, MN
  4. St. Louis, MO
  5. Virginia Beach, VA
  6. Pittsburg, PA
  7. Columbia, MD
  8. Chandler, AZ
  9. Huntington Beach, CA
  10. Overland Park, KS

Interested in the losers? These are Wallethub’s worst cities in the U.S. for people with disabilities. 

  1. Mobile, AL
  2. Greensboro, NC
  3. Montgomery, AL
  4. Pearl City, HI
  5. Bridgeport, CT
  6. Anchorage, AK
  7. Winston-Salem, NC
  8. Jackson, MS
  9. Juneau, AK
  10. Gulfport, MS

To break things down even further, Wallethub also ranks cities based on the employment rate for people with disabilities and the overall cost of living. Here’s how those rankings shake out.

Employment Rate for People With Disabilities (Highest)

  1. Fargo, ND
  2. Overland Park, KS
  3. Dover, DE
  4. Virginia Beach, VA
  5. Plano, TX

Employment Rate for People With Disabilities (Lowest)

  1. Bridgeport, CT
  2. Shreveport, LA
  3. Glendale, CA
  4. Gulfport, MS
  5. South Burlington, VT

Cost of Living (Highest)

  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. New York, NY
  4. Honolulu, HI
  5. Pearl City, HI

Cost of Living (Lowest)

  1. Brownsville, TX
  2. Laredo, TX
  3. Huntington, WV
  4. Jackson, MS
  5. Oklahoma City, OK
  6. Toledo, OH

The point is not to rank cities in some immutable order that applies to everyone. Rather, Wallethub wants to help people with disabilities choose a city based on their individual priorities, especially if they want to live independently.

What Makes a Great City for People With Disabilities?

That said, it’s worth taking a closer look at Scottsdale to see why it won. In addition to a generally strong economy and fairly low cost of living, the city offers services and assistance for people with disabilities, such as:

  • Free, wheelchair-accessible trolleys with routes all over the downtown area
  • Several paratransit options 
  • Rideshare service and taxi vouchers for people with disabilities 
  • A compact downtown area with plenty of accessible shops and restaurants
  • Adaptive sports like bowling, swimming, and basketball
  • Adaptive social and recreational programs that encompass art, dance, music, life skills, and recreation
  • Trained city employees to help people participate in these programs
  • A fully accessible playground for children of all ability levels
  • An excellent health care system, including a significant branch of the Mayo Clinic (one of the best hospitals in the world) and a wide-ranging health care network called HonorHealth.

Scottsdale isn’t for everyone, of course. Use the list above – and criteria of your own – as a starting point to assess any city where you might live.

You can also sort Wallethub’s main ranking from best to worst based on any of the three primary criteria it evaluated. (See below for more on how the ranking was calculated.)

For example, if you’re financially secure and don’t need economic assistance, quality of life may be more important to you. In that case, consider Portland, which comes out on top in that category. Or if access to great healthcare is a must, Billings may be your best choice. 

Wallethub’s Methodology

To determine the most livable U.S. cities for people with disabilities, WalletHub compared 182 cities across three key dimensions: economy, quality of life, and health care. The survey included the 150 most populous cities in the country as a whole, plus at least two of the most populous cities in each state.

Wallethub evaluated each of the three dimensions using 33 metrics that were assigned different weights. 

  • Economy included things like cost of living, housing affordability, employment rate and average income of people with disabilities, annual cost of in-home services, availability of disability insurance, and waiting times for public housing.
  • Quality of life encompassed high school graduation rate for people with disabilities; wheelchair-accessible restaurants, grocery stores, and other public facilities per capita; the share of newer (and thus probably more accessible) colleges and other public buildings; the effectiveness of state Medicaid programs; and other factors.
  • Health care included the cost of a doctor visit, home health and personal care aides per capita, the quality of the public hospital system, etc.

Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for people with disabilities. Wallhub then determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score. Only the actual city proper was included, not suburbs and other surrounding areas. TwP

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