It is difficult to get an overview of the number of people affected by a lack of accessibility, since there are so many different types of conditions that can create problems. We often get asked how many people with different disabilities there are, but this, too, is difficult to answer. Disability is usually not included in census surveys and, in addition, can be defined in many different ways. Some disabilities are hard to diagnose, while others affect only certain parts of your life.

Who is really affected by a lack of accessibility? People often ask us how many persons with disabilities there are, in the Nordic region as well as in Europe or, indeed, the world. This question is not altogether easy to answer. Mindful of privacy concerns, few countries gather full-scale census information on the prevalence of disabilities in the population. This is as it should be: the right to privacy is indispensable.

Sometimes, however, numbers are good to have. Convincing people to remedy a lack of accessibility becomes a lot easier if you can tell them how many people are actually affected by the issue and give them a sense of the effort needed.

So how do we get figures that we can trust? The figures below have been collected from a variety of sources. Most of these statistics have been calculated using one of three methods:

  • Sample surveys. Data is collected from a representative smaller group to draw conclusions about the population as a whole.
  • Assistive technology and service provision. Information about the number of people who use a particular assistive technology or public service, such as wheelchairs, screen readers or personal assistance.
  • Health care statistics. Information about the number of people who seek medical attention for a particular reason, or the prevalence of a certain diagnosis over time.

All three methods have advantages and disadvantages. Here, we present the information we find most credible, but where appropriate we will explain the potential shortcomings of the figures.

Human abilities and situations that affect them


  • Approximately 50 million people worldwide have dementia.
  • In Europe, around 10 million people have dementia. Its prevalence is expected to double by 2030.

There is a lack of awareness and knowledge about how widespread dementia is in many countries. It can result in people getting their diagnosis to late and the countries need to recognize dementia as a public health priority and improve comprehensive treatment and support for caregivers in order to help at an early stage.

Source: WHO and Euro WHO

Mobility and motor skills

  • About 1% of people worldwide have rheumatoid arthritis
  • In the 34 developed countries it is estimated that 1% or 10,000,000 people require a wheelchair
  • In the 156 developing countries it is estimated that at least 2% or 121,800,000 people require a wheelchair
  • Overall, of the 7,091,500,000 people in the world, approximately 131,800,000 or 1.85% require a wheelchair
  • An estimated further 110 million people worldwide need wheelchairs but don't have them – 500,000 in developed countries and 109.5 million in developing countries.
  • In the European Union, wheelchair users comprise around 1% of the population, or 5 million people.
  • Every year, about 500,000 people worldwide suffer a spinal cord injury. The main causes of injuries are traffic accidents, violence and falls.

The numbers are calculated out of an estimate and are not an exact number of wheelchair users.

Source: Wheelchairfoundation, WHO and Euobserver

Difficulties reading and writing

  • An estimated 10% of the world population experiences some degree of dyslexia.
  • 17% of all 15-year-olds in Europe have literacy difficulties.
  • Around 9-12% of Europeans have dyslexia combined with a specific learning difference.
  • 244 million people worldwide have migrated across linguistic boundaries.

Source: PISA, ELINET and UN


  • Up to 200 million people around the world have an intellectual disability.
  • In Europe around 1% of the population have some kind of intellectual disability, which amounts to about 7.4 million people.

Source: Special Olympics and European Intellectual Disability Research Network


  • 34% of the world’s population have myopia and use eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • There are around 217 million people with moderate to severe visual impairment in the world.
  • There are around 36 million blind people in the world.
  • In Europe, there are 30 million visually impaired people.
  • 2.5 million people in Europe are blind.

Source: WHO, American Academy of Ophthalmology and European Blind Union


  • There are 360 million people with disabling hearing loss in the world.
  • In Europe there are around 700,000 – 900,000 people who are deaf. Around 0.1% of any given EU country’s population are deaf sign language users.
  • Around 12.7% of Europe’s population have some hearing loss.

Source: Hear-it, World Federation of Deaf and WHO


  • Around 5-8% of all children under five years old will go through a period of stammering.
  • 1% of the adult population have a stammer. About 80% of stammerers are men.

Source: British Stammering Association and The Stutter Foundation

Concentration and memory

  • 7.2% of all children are estimated to have ADHD
  • Around 4% of all adults in Europe are estimated to have ADHD in Europe.

Source: ADHD Europe and American Academy of Pediatrics

Social and mental

  • 1 in 160 children worldwide are estimated to have an autism spectrum disorder
  • 38% of Europeans have a mental or neurological condition such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia.
  • There are 264 million people who suffer from depression worldwide
  • There are 45 million people who suffer from bipolar affect disorder in the world
  • There are 22 million people who suffer from schizophrenia/psychosis in the world

Though considered one of the most common disabilities, mental illness can be difficult to define. One indicator may be the number of people who seek health care for mental issues. However, this leaves out the considerable number of people who experience mental illness but do not seek medical treatment.

Source: WHO

Asthma and allergies

  • Around 200-250 million people around the world have some sort of food allergy
  • There are 300 million people worldwide who have asthma
  • The prevalence of asthma in the EU is 8.2% in adults and 9.4% in children.

Source: European Respiratory Review