US and worldwide studies of working age people with disabilities show consistent & continuing patterns of unemployment for these individuals, as compared to their non-disabled working peers.

According to the March 2010 US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, 77% of people with self-disclosed limitations to major life activities are “not in the workforce.” The UN Millennium Development Goals Report indicates the unemployment rate for people with disabilities as high as 90% in some of the world’s developing countries.

Deep cutbacks in public and government funding have seen a reduction and elimination of grants, loans, and vendor contracting sources that served as employment-generators, business incubators, and direct services for people with disabilities.

The overall inability of the government and business communities to provide seed or sustaining funding continues to limit traditional avenues to job placement, self-employment, and start up entrepreneurial businesses for all sectors and classes of workers- especially those with barriers to employment due to disability.

Despite the demise of many exemplary programs, there are some continuing regional efforts to address employment inclusion and self-employment for people with disabilities such as the US Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities and internationally through organizations such as Leonard Cheshire Disability International.

Recently, more attention is being directed at improving employment activities and public awareness coordinated by federal interagency and community-based organizations through advertising/marketing campaigns such as “What Can You Do?” and “Think Beyond the Label.” In the public sector, the Obama administration’s stated policy position seeks to have the federal government set a leadership example by hiring 100,000 new federal employees with disabilities.

The US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) has been a committed partner in making convincing business cases for hiring qualified applicants with disabilities, establishing a national footprint of disability-confident employers, and recently set up a supplier diversity program for entrepreneurs with disabilities to become recognized as nationally certified disability-owned business.

While encouraging, these nascent efforts could be leveraged further through the development of a Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities. People with disabilities cannot and should not wait for government intervention to comprehensively implement disability and inclusive business development policy and practice.

The Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities is a newly formed organization which recognizes that is it within our capabilities to initiate a call to action- to challenge and change international policy, practice, and participation of disabled people in developing and building their own successful businesses.

The need for a global network

A number of studies indicate that self-employment as an entrepreneurial activity is a legitimate business option with nearly twice as many economically engaged people with disability (14%) running their own businesses or are self-employed as opposed to self-employment of non-disabled people (8%).

The Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities agrees with these studies, and further believes that around the world, there are many thousands of potentially successful business owners who are:

  • In business now but not making the most of it.
  • Ready to startup but are facing  a variety of obstacles.
  • Thinking about it but are not yet skilled enough to progress their ideas.
  • Not really yet aware that self employment could even be an option to them. It is beyond their wildest dreams!

To achieve their potential they need encouragement, support and reliable information.

Who are the members of the Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities?

We are:

  • Business owners with disability who have started and continue to run our businesses successfully.
  • Sole traders and business owners operating across many types of business and sectors.
  • Own and operate our businesses in the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Holland, Spain and Australia.
  • Passionate and committed to the concept of building a global network of entrepreneurs with disability.

What can the network do to help develop successful businesses run by people with disabilities?

  • Provide a global resource of information put together by business owners and entrepreneurs with disability to which potential business owners with disability can turn at any stage of their business journey.
  • Offering a dedicated leading edge accessible website forming a repository of web based resources and information.
  • Share our expertise, first hand experiences, provide case studies, and leverage our contacts/connections.
  • Help people explore what is possible and prepare others for their journey with one-on-one mentoring across the disability spectrum.
  • Provide encouragement because we have confronted (and in some cases still are facing) the challenges and barriers of business startups and ongoing operation with a disability.
  • Act as a conduit and partner helping established & start up’s efforts to obtain USBLN supplier diveristy certification as part of their plans to expand globally.
  • Build community, dignity, and self-determination through a market place for disabled and non-disabled business people to connect and collaborate for mutual benefit.

An international community of members are available to discuss social media & online networking resources used to launch the Network, share the unique perspectives/experiences its members provide to potential start ups, and outline emerging strategies for selling/positioning Entrepreneurs with Disabilities expertise to businesses/governments in countries just now addressing employment inclusion in their part of the developing world.

Consider this our invitation to join and contribute!

If you are a member of LinkedIn, you can follow the discussion threads and/or this group by following this link and becoming a member.

Interested parties can also contact and get to know any of the founding members through the email addresses provided here:

Laurie S. Alphonse, Trainer & Program Developer, Access Infinity Management, Ottawa, Canada

Alan Broadbent, CEO, International Network Accessible Travel, Barcelona, Spain

Simon Cox, Managing Director, Diverse Matters LTD, Darlington, UK

Rob Crawford, CEO, Life Development Institute, Glendale, USA

Linda Fitzpatrick, Director, Disability Etiquette Company, Nyack, USA

Ed Larsen, President/Owner AbilityMarket Recruitment Services, New York, USA

John Little, Co-Founder & Director, Successful Resumes International Sydney, Australia

Debra Ruh, CEO, TecAccess, Richmond, USA