More and more Americans with disabilities are going into business for themselves.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Census, people with disabilities are almost twice as likely as non-disabled individuals to start a business (SmallBusinessNotes.com); almost 15 percent of working disabled people are self-employed compared to under 10 percent of non-disabled working people.
For many Americans with disabilities, self-employment and home-based businesses in particular offer empowerment, control, and the flexibility to succeed while accommodating their own unique needs that they may not otherwise find in the more traditional corporate workplace.
Of course, as for all entrepreneurs, going into business as a disabled individual is a significant undertaking not only for your finances, but for your agility, stamina, and determination.
Building a business from nothing, particularly as a disabled person, presents unique challenges, not least of which are attitudinal barriers; the potential loss of benefits; the lack of assets to use as collateral; and perceived lack of access to programs that promote self employment and small business development.
Despite the challenges, the success rate among disabled small business owners is unprecedented. Just look at this statistic from the Disabled Businessman’s Association – they estimate that 40 percent of home-based businesses are operated by people with disabilities.
To keep this percentage on the uptick, there are many government and government-authorized resources and financial programs to assist those with disabilities in starting and operating a business.
Below is a summary of some useful resources for disabled small business owners including business and market development advice, financial programs, business operation information, and more.
Resources for Starting a Business as a Disabled Individual
If you have a disability and are considering starting your own business there are several in-person or Web-based resources available to you, including the following.
- Business.gov’s Business Resources for Disabled People provides online access to a wide variety of resources that help disabled people start, grow and manage a small business.
The site includes online seminars, links to relevant self-employment information specifically for those with disabilities, as well as guides that introduce and address the critical factors that face entrepreneurs with disabilities.
Business.gov can also link you to other agencies and organizations such as Start-Up USA and the Social Security Administration’s Ticket To Work Program that can help you use benefit funding to achieve vocation goals through training programs.
- The Office of Disability Employment Policy’s (ODEP) Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides individualized technical assistance, consulting, and mentoring services to budding entrepreneurs with disabilities, family members, and service providers.
You can also call JAN consultants for individual assistance regarding all aspects of entrepreneurship. JAN’s services are available free of charge through their toll-free numbers: (800)526-7234 (V), (877)781-9403 (TTY) or 1-800-232-9675/V/TTY.
Financing your Enterprise: Small Business Loans for People with Disabilities
The government, through the Small Business Administration (SBA), provides a number of low-interest loan programs that help disabled people obtain startup financing. In addition, many independent organizations such as The Abilities Fund, as well as state-sponsored loan programs, provide loans for individuals with disabilities.