2020 Census

The deadline to complete your census is unclear. A federal judge says October 30 but U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, says October 5. Read the AP News article: Judge says ending 2020 census on Oct. 5 may violate order.

If you have not already filled out the census – online, over the phone, or by mail – please do so immediately!

Completing the census usually takes less than ten minutes. Guides are available to help disabled people fill out the census, and different accessible versions are also available.
Why is it so important to make sure you and your family/household are counted? The government uses information from the census results to decide how resources get distributed. This includes funding for programs essential to the disability community (and other at-risk communities), like housing, healthcare, education, and transportation. It’s critical that Massachusetts and its disabled residents are fully represented. There’s a lot to lose if we aren’t.

Massachusetts 2020 Census: How to respond, informational materials, state data, and more
The Arc – Census 2020: Includes plain-language materials, videos, disability-specific information

Effects of COVID-19

The timeline for the 2020 Census has been modified (most tasks are delayed or even suspended) to protect the health and safety of Census Bureau employees and the American public, while still achieving an accurate count of all U.S. Citizens.

Regardless of the timeline, if you can, please fill out the census online now.

What is the Census?

The Census is conducted every 10 years. The census aims to count every person living in the United States regardless of citizenship status. This year’s census will serve as America’s 24th census and will count every person living in the United States as of April 1st, 2020 (Census Day).

Everyone Must Complete the 2020 Census! If you live in the United States, you are required by law to participate in the 2020 count, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau. It’s also mandated by the Constitution: The United States has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.

How Do You Respond to the Census?

You will be able to respond online, by phone or by mail. If you forget or fail to respond, then someone will come out to your home to ask the census questions in person.

What Information is Collected?

Next year’s census will collect the following information:

  • Age
  • Hispanic origin
  • Race
  • Sex
  • The number of individuals living in a household
  • If the household owns or rents the property

How is the Census Information Used?


  • Figure out how more than $675 billion in federal government resources will be distributed
  • Allocate seats in the United Sates House of Representatives
  • Draw the appropriate boundaries for congressional districts, state legislative districts, school districts, and voting precincts

In Massachusetts, census information will determine federal funding for the next 10 years of things like:

  • Public health programs and services
  • Planning of public transportation improvements
  • Education grants
  • Designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly, and children

The Census and People with Disabilities

People with disabilities make up 22% of the American public, yet they traditionally have been among the most under-counted populations. Disability is not only its own category, it is also a subset found within every social, economic, and racial demographic in the United States.

Reasons Why People with Disabilities WILL Participate in the 2020 Census

  • Surveys are conducted in partnership with a trusted community group, advocacy organization, or person they already know.
  • Completing the survey in a place where they are comfortable, such as an independent living center.
  • Having someone they trust with them when they are completing the census on a computer or by smartphone.
  • Understanding how important completing the census is.
  • Having access to web-based information in accessible formats or census information in plain language

Accessibility for the 2020 Census

  • Online videos and webcasts with closed or open captioning will be available.
  • Large print and braille paper questionnaires are available.
  • The Census Bureau’s call centers will utilize Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology and their telephone number will be included on the postcards mailed to every household.
  • Along with the actual questionnaires, outreach efforts will be fully accessible. Households can request a visit from a census taker who uses American Sign Language.
  • The internet questionnaire will also be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

ASL Video Guide to Completing the Census Online

Visit Census.gov for an American Sign Language video with English voice-over and captions to introduce you to the 2020 Census, present a quick overview of the online questionnaire, and help answer the questions.

Possible Reasons Why People with Disabilities Do Not Participate in the Census

  • They have never been asked
  • They believe that the census will not have an impact on their life
  • They don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information
  • They are worried that the information will be used against them

2020 Census Timeline

Visit 2020census.gov/en/news-events/operational-adjustments-covid-19.html for the latest dates.


Several laws exist to protect an individual’s information after completing the Census, including Title 13.

  • Data collected for the census is used for statistical purposes ONLY. It is illegal to use this data for any nonstatistical purpose, such as immigration regulation.
  • Census workers are sworn to secrecy under the threat of criminal punishment. It is illegal for anyone BUT census workers to see someone’s census information.
  • It is illegal for the US Census to disclose individual census responses that will in any way allow someone to be identified.
  • It is illegal for the US Census to share individual responses with other government agencies.
  • It is illegal for the Census Bureau or any other government agency to use the census information provided against the person who provided it.

Non-English Language Support

  • The Census Bureau’s telephone call centers will answer questions and accept responses in English and in 12 other languages: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.
  • Bilingual mailing materials and questionnaires will be sent to addresses in identified bilingual communities.
  • Mailings will include instructions on how to respond via Internet or phone in 12 non-English languages.

Translated Guides

The census has been translated to over 50 languages, and is available in Braille and Large Print. To download the translated language guides, visit www.census.gov. Please contact us if you cannot locate a needed Braille or Large Print version.

An ASL guide is also online at www.census.gov/library/video.

Counting Other Groups

Group Living Arrangements

The Census will use a special process to count people in group living arrangements, such as:

  • Nursing Facilities
  • Group Homes
  • Residential Treatment Centers
  • Special Education Residential Schools
  • College/University Student Housing
  • Prisons
  • Military Barracks
  • Shelters for People Experiencing Homelessness

Points to Remember:

  • People in group living arrangments will be counted through a process known as the Group Quarters (GQ) Operations.
  • Census staff will work with GQ housing administrators to set an agreed-upon date, time, and preferred method of enumeration with housing administrators.
  • The bureau will not directly invite individuals living in GQ facilities to self-respond.

Counting People Experiencing Homelessness

The Census Bureau also has special processes in place for counting people who may be experiencing homelessness and who are staying or receiving assistance at service-based locations such as emergency and transitional shelters, soup kitchens, regularly scheduled mobile food van stops, and pre-identified non-sheltered outdoor locations.

The Census Bureau will devote three days to counting people who are experiencing homelessness across the country, with checks in place to ensure that people are not counted more than once.

  • March 30, 2020: Count people who are in shelters
  • March 31, 2020: Count people at soup kitchens and mobile food vans
  • April 1, 2020: Count people in non-sheltered, outdoor locations, such as tent encampments and on the streets.


The Census is Coming: How Nonprofits Can Make Sure That Everyone Counts—and Why They Should. From Massachusetts Nonprofit Network: Commonwealth Insights – Download the PDF file.

An Accessible 2020 Census: Frequently Asked Questions by the Disability Community about Census Operations from National Disability Rights and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. Download the PDF file.