Recognized as a "hard-to-count" population by the U.S. Census Bureau, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are likely to face new obstacles in the first-ever digital census that's allowing residents to be counted online.

To help ensure this population is properly counted in 2020, and that they are aware of the steps they'll have to follow in the weeks ahead, The Arc of New Jersey is hosting census trainings for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

About a dozen trainings have either taken place or are scheduled for a future date. A two-hour session is slated for Thursday evening at High Mountain Church in North Haledon.

"It teaches them why it's important to be counted and why they need to fill it out. It shows them what the Census questions are going to look like so that they're prepared to answer them. And then it talks about how to spot a scam," said Céline Fortin, associate executive director of the state's largest organization advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The inclusion training, presented as a slideshow, also provides participants with handouts about Census basics.

Fortin said people with these disabilities are typically less likely to respond to the Census for reasons that include limited access to a computer, difficulty understanding the process and simply not being aware of their duty.

Census data, gathered every 10 years, help steer billions of dollars in federal funding and are used to determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Homes across the country will begin receiving Census invitations in the mail by mid-March. Responses can be submitted online, over the phone or through the mail. By April 1, every home will have an invitation. Between May and July, Census takers will visit homes that haven't yet responded.

According to The Arc, the Census can also pose challenges for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live in congregate settings, like group homes. Fortin said the government will reach out to the administrative offices of these establishments to create a more streamlined process.

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