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Report Finds Entrepreneurship Is an Increasing Employment Option for Adults with Disabilities

August 3, 2022
Source: National Disability Institute (NDI)

New research highlights the challenges and opportunities for people with disabilities in small business ownership

Today, National Disability Institute (NDI) released the new report, Small Business Ownership by People with Disabilities: Challenges and Opportunities. The report finds that, with a significant portion (74 percent) of people with disabilities outside the labor force, entrepreneurship is an important employment option for this population. However, they are often hindered by limited access to affordable startup capital and a scarcity of supports, services and programs tailored to their unique needs and challenges.

The more than 1.8 million business owners with disabilities in the U.S. often must overcome unique barriers to entrepreneurship as they strive to compete alongside their non-disabled counterparts in a business world that does not fully recognize their abilities and resilience.

“Individuals with disabilities continue to turn to self-employment and small business development as a viable alternative that provides greater control, choice and flexibility in terms of work schedule, environment and economic advancement,” said Thomas Foley, Executive Director, National Disability Institute. “Government, corporate and philanthropic efforts need to evolve to ensure that people with disabilities have the financial and economic opportunities to match their talents, ambitions and potential.”

“Findings from this report show that more work needs to be done to remove institutional barriers and empower the financial success of small business owners and entrepreneurs with disabilities,” said Elizabeth Daly-Torres, Executive Director, Office of Disability Inclusion, JPMorgan Chase. “Developing creative solutions for these owners and entrepreneurs to grow and thrive is one way to drive sustainable change.”

The report findings provide an important lens on the employment choices and decision making of Americans with disabilities. Report highlights include:

  • A higher percentage of self-employment in working-age people with disabilities is observed in all age groups, as compared to working-age people without disabilities.
  • Lower labor force participation and higher self-employment rates among those who are working stem in part from barriers to the labor market.
  • Barriers keep them from pursuing work and, when people with disabilities do pursue work, lack of accommodations and discrimination in the workplace may prompt them to launch their own enterprises.
  • Entrepreneurs with disabilities expressed that they started their business to have a more flexible work schedule because they had experienced a hostile work environment or a lack of advancement opportunity or they were laid off and could not find a job in their field.
  • The absence of disability data in most public and private surveys of small businesses renders business owners with disabilities invisible. This creates an obstacle to building a case for developing targeted programs for this underserved and too often overlooked population.

Sources for the report included Census Bureau survey data, entrepreneurs with disabilities, state Vocational Rehabilitation agency (SVRA) leaders and experts from organizations in the ecosystem of disability-owned business enterprises (DOBEs). In addition, entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities were interviewed for the report. A DOBE is a for-profit business that is at least 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by a person with a disability regardless of whether or not that business owner employs person(s) with a disability. The entrepreneurs were asked to identify the facilitators and barriers to developing their small business — including the support services available to them — and to describe additional supports that are needed to help grow and sustain disability-owned small businesses.

National Disability Institute released the report findings today [July 28, 2022] during a national webinar.

A digital copy of the report is available for download from the NDI website.

The research and report were made possible through the generous support of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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