Office For National Statistics (ONS) Disability Report

It is the result of qualitative research exploring disabled people’s experiences with private sector activities, goods and services across the UK. In-depth interviews were conducted with disabled people aged 18 years and over, with a range of characteristics. Building upon recommendations from the Inclusive Data Taskforce, this research aimed to address a knowledge gap and inform policy and practice.

Main points

A summary of this report is also available in an Easy Read version.

A brief video of the main findings will also be available soon. If you would like to be notified when the video becomes available, please send your interest to or call us on 0800 085 7376.

  • Disabled people faced many different barriers, including: physical access, restrictive building layouts, inaccessible online services, poor information provision and inflexible design of customer services that do not consider accessibility for a broad range of needs.
  • The experiences of online services was mixed among disabled people; for some experiencing digital exclusion, access and engagement was limited, and for others, online services facilitated access and helped mitigate some of the physical design barriers within day-to-day life.
  • Extensive preparation and developing workarounds were some of the ways in which disabled people navigated interacting with difficult-to-access services, with some having to rely on family and friends for support.
  • Extra effort in developing workarounds came at a physical, financial and emotional cost to disabled people.
  • Disabled people with invisible impairments could face a conflict between needing support but not wanting to have to identify themselves as disabled to access it, because of perceived external judgement and negative stereotypes regarding disability; this contributed to a sense of vulnerability which people felt negatively impacted their wellbeing.
  • The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) caused negative experiences of isolation with limited access to support for some disabled people, which extended beyond coronavirus; however, others acknowledged the positive increase in online services, providing more opportunities to access, connect and communicate.
  • Disabled people identified their priorities for future service provision, including: physical and online environments being appropriate for a wide range of impairments and offering flexibility in recognising and accommodating needs, involving disabled people in policy and service decisions that impact their lives, increasing awareness and empathy for people with a range of impairments, and providing meaningful, readily-available help for disabled people when accessing activities, goods and services.
In this report, “disabled people” and “participants” refers to people with different impairments, aged 18 years and over, who took part in this research. We aim to portray the views of participants and to reflect their words as closely as possible. Some quotes have been edited for language and grammar to improve accessibility, without changing the content or meaning.