You might be stunned to learn that one out of every five Americans suffer from some form of disability. Not all disabilities qualify for government assistance, and finding a job can be twice as hard for these individuals, compared to the non-disabled. Missing work for medical treatments, or requiring your employer to make special arrangements for your disability, can make employers think hard about adding someone with limitations. If you are lucky enough to qualify for disability compensation (lucky?), sitting and thinking about a life that will always be beyond your reach, is hardly beneficial.
Some consider their disability as nothing more than a stumbling block, a part of life, a challenge to conquer. For this group, entrepreneurship is a fabulous way to stay motivated, follow those dreams, and make life as rich as possible. When creativity is the key, motivation the objective, and a will of determination, the force, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. Here are a few examples of how disabilities have actually aided in entering the world of entrepreneurship, and finding enjoyment in every minute of the journey.
Success Stories of Disabled Entrepreneurs
One successful entrepreneur, was 60 years, old before embarking on his dream of owning a small business. Diagnosed as a child with a muscular disease, he knew that living in a wheelchair was inevitable. He went to college and entered the world of scientific research, writing several papers and books, and leading a very productive life. However, by the time that he had taken an early retirement, the dream of always wanting to be an entrepreneur, was tugging hard at him. He looked around and saw where his skills, and own experiences, could help others with disabilities. A device for moving paraplegics was patented, manufactured, and hit the market, big. This once retiree has since expanded the use for his product, and is now entering the export market, with no thoughts of ever sitting at home.
Another example of how entrepreneurship can awaken one from being disabled, is shown through a hard working truck driver. Never given the opportunity to attend college, he began driving a semi-truck, coast to coast, and expected to keep his job until retirement. One day, after about 25 years of driving, he found himself with a broken back. After exhausting the company’s Workers’ Compensation, there was no job, no insurance and no income. The experience was traumatic and all this man could think of, was to help others, that were in this same situation. It gave him the reason, and the drive, to start a small business that involved rebuilding small items. Today, his business is flourishing, with many disabled employees, working for him.
There are tons of success stories of disabled entrepreneurs that could be told, but the reality is, most are good at it. Perhaps they have a stronger desire to succeed, or cannot find a suitable job, but the US Department of Census reports that people with disabilities, are twice as likely to become self-employed, compared to non-disabled individuals. They have taken the lead, and created groups and organizations that aid those with disabilities in finding support, money, and ways to battle almost any obstacle that gets in their way.
In southern California, an agency called Self-Employment of the Enterprising Disabled Institute (S.E.E.D.), was started to encourage and educate the disadvantaged through courses and scholarships. The Disabled Businesspersons Association (DBA) was founded in 1968 by a Vietnam veteran who suffered several medical conditions that kept him away from the workforce. Together, with a group of disabled business professionals, this group was formed to help those that lack the knowledge of entrepreneurship.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Since the inception of the Internet, entrepreneur organizations and support groups, for the business-inclined disabled, has exploded. Out of the thousands of small businesses that are in operation today, nearly 15% are comprised of owners, that have some form of disability. This is astounding to many people that struggle in entrepreneurship, and have no disabilities. Some studies point to technology as a prominent factor in the large percentage, because communication is easier and presentations, more accessible. One survey conducted among a disabled organization, felt that there is a lesser social stigma placed on those with disabilities. The government likes to take credit for creating the Disabilities Act of 1980, but any entrepreneur will tell you that it takes more than a government program to become a successful business owner.
Uniqueness That is Self-Evident
The real proof lies in visiting a few of these associations and organizations that have been established by the disabled. Only then, can one fully understand what drives these individuals to emerge as champions. To the outsider, looking in, a certain sense of pride unfolds, a passionate understanding that is only known to those that belong. There is no pity, self-loathing, or excuses for not reaching a goal; something that seems to be missing from the thousands of businesses that fail each year. Secondly, there does not appear to be a narcissistic attitude among the members, who are willing to help others in achieving freedom of self-worth and self-reliance.
Entrepreneurs without disabilities could certainly learn a lot from disabled small businesses today. If you are considering entering the tough world of entrepreneurship, disabled or not, you owe it to yourself to visit one of these organizations for the disabled. A new insight can be gained in your preparation.