The report comes days after the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and leaders at the CDC echoed the remarks made by President Obama last week on the milestone: that much has been accomplished and that there's still much left to do.
That's evident in the clear geographic disparities highlighted in the data. Alabama had the highest level of disabilities, at 31.5 percent of the population, followed closely by Mississippi and Tennessee. The states with the lowest prevalence included Minnesota and North Dakota, both at around 16.5 percent.
While CDC officials say it's unclear what exactly is behind the geographic disparity, the report notes that states with higher disability prevalence are similar to those facing similar rates of diabetes and hypertension.
Georgina Peacock, director of the CDC's Division of Human Development and Disability, and former Iowa senator Tom Harkin, argued in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday that the geographic disparities aligns with other factors contributing to poor health for Southern states: lower educational attainment and higher poverty and unemployment.
They also point to other issues remaining as obstacles for disabled people to get the health care they need, such as poor transportation and stigma.
Overall, about 22 percent of American adults reported some form of disability, including around 53 million adults.
"We know it's not a unified group — the types really vary," said Elizabeth Courtney-Long, a CDC health scientist. "This data really provides a snapshot — it gives people a better understanding of who people with disabilities are."
The most frequently reported disability in the survey — at 13 percent — included conditions affecting mobility, most notably arthritis, back and spine problems.
Women also reported a significantly higher level of disability at 24 percent, compared to about 20 percent in men. In terms of race, black respondents reported the highest number of any type of disability.