KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Disability Coalition gave the state a cumulative "D+" for working adults with disabilities on its 2022 Tennessee Disability Scorecard.
The report is based on eight disability priority areas for 2022. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 1 in 3 Tennesseans experience some form of disability, comprising the single largest minority group in Tennessee.
Out of the eight priority areas, housing was the direst concern for working Tennesseans with disabilities.
Median home prices and household income were calculated by county and assumed a fixed 30-year mortgage at 5% interest, with a 20% down payment. Of Tennessee's 95 counties, 80 were unaffordable for working Tennesseans with a disability, according to the TDC.
Some East Tennesseans know firsthand why the state received such a low score.
Forrest Phillips was in a car accident last year, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
"I was on the interstate, everyone was slamming on their brakes, and I didn't and ran into a semi-truck," said Phillips.
He is not surprised by the Tennessee Disability Coalition's rating of a D plus. Phillips describes it as a general grade.
One area where Tennessee falls short is housing. There is not enough accessible and affordable housing for people with affliction.
Phillips lives with his seventy-three-year-old dad.
"The only place for people like me is to live with a caregiver or go to a nursing home. I live with my 73-year-old Dad," he said.
Here is a breakdown of how Tennessee received its score:
- Grade: F
- 80 of Tennessee’s 95 counties do not have affordable housing for working people with disabilities.
- Grade: D+
- 33% of Tennessee workers with disabilities are employed, compared to 78% of workers without disabilities. This ranks Tennessee 44 out of all 50 states.
- Grade: C-
- Tennessee ranks 39 in the U.S. for quality of public transportation.
- Grade: F
- Tennessee has the fifth-highest percentage of adults with medical debt in the country.
Home Healthcare Worker Crisis
- Grade: F
- Tennessee ranks 43 in the U.S. for the availability of home healthcare workers, with only 13 workers for every 100 Tennesseans needing care.
Sales Tax Burden
- Grade: A
- Like nearly all states, Tennessee does not tax the sale of durable medical equipment, prescriptions, and mobility devices.
Affordability of Care
- Grade C+
- The AARP ranked Tennessee 35 in the affordability of care for people with disabilities based on relatively low home healthcare costs, but 49 in consumers’ ability to access these home healthcare services.
Support for Family Caregivers
- Grade: F
- Given the critical shortage of home healthcare workers across the country, AARP ranked Tennessee 49 in supporting family members caring for loved ones with disabilities based on state policies.
“The Tennessee Disability Coalition receives tens of thousands of calls every year from current and future residents of Tennesseewanting to know what they can expect for themselves, or their children.” TDC Executive Director Carol Westlake said. “They want a snapshot, but it’s tough to fully explain the reality of living and working in Tennessee with a disability. Many of the norms they’re familiar with, or have heard about in other states, probably don’t exist here. If they do, there’s a good chance they’re underspent, overly bureaucratic, or both; leaving the disability community of Tennessee drowning in a sea of red tape.”
The scorecard is reviewed annually to ensure the lived experiences of Tennesseans are at the forefront of all policy decisions made by state leaders including lawmakers, appointed commissioners and municipalities.
The whole scorecard and more information can be found on TDC's website.