Entrepreneurs require tenacity, leadership, time management, flexibility, and problem-solving skills. Now triple those for the disabled.
The characteristics that make disabled people good candidates for the (sometimes tricky) entrepreneur path are typically manifold. So why is it that the disabled entrepreneur still lacks funding and resources?
Bunim/Murray Productions, the Emmy Award-winning creators of “Born This Way,” recently featured disabled entrepreneurs on TV. From Always Reason to Culture’s Closet, Collette Divitto to The Congregation Presents, the show “Born For Business” featured successful entrepreneurs.
Due to society’s ingrained stigmas, social hurdles, and lack of accessibility, a staggering number of disabled persons often have to find unconventional ways to make a living.
The American Community Survey estimated that 700,000 disabled people were self-employed. Thousands may become successful entrepreneurs with the right resources, assets, and finance. Minorities offer great leadership material.
The Charity Model of disability is difficult to ignore when examining financing issues. The old, outdated model treats disabled individuals as objects of pity and charity.
For example, non-disabled individuals may feel disabled persons are burdens who require philanthropic support. Thousands of disabled Americans earn subminimum wages, averaging $3.34 an hour, compared to the federal threshold of $7.25.
Looking Closer at the Lack of Funding
Another reason for the lack of funds for disabled entrepreneurs is the widespread “hustle culture,” which means ongoing effort. There’s a notion that if you’re not answering emails at 2 a.m., you’re not working hard enough.
Health is rarely a choice for disabled entrepreneurs, and it shouldn’t be for non-disabled entrepreneurs. Here are a few ways we build an inclusive environment.
For example, Maayan Ziv, founder, and CEO of AccessNow, creates improved work environments that increase employee retention and productivity.
AccessNow’s goal is to become a trusted source for accessibility information. They build a connected platform to help everyone discover new opportunities, make better choices, and overcome obstacles. They understand how accessible the planet is and chart as many sites as possible.
Flexibility is critical for the disabled, whether it’s in work hours, format, tools, or anything else. Encouraging various lived experiences requires understanding how people show up as their best selves. Empathy means getting closer to others’ experiences. It has helped many companies acquire patience, kindness, and compassion.
Proactive communication is a great strategy to build an inclusive culture. This is especially crucial when onboarding new team members as it sets the tone for what we expect from each other on the team.
This should not be news to an entrepreneur.
Accessibility is at the heart of everything AccessNow does. They make sure everything they do is accessible, from digital tools to language, content, plans, products, programs, and events. Similarly, accessibility leadership is a journey.
For example, in Morgan Stanley’s yearly poll of venture capitalists, they give conclusions based on four groups:
- Men of Color
- Women of Color
The study defined “multicultural” as “all nonwhite persons, including black/African-Americans.” An entrepreneur ought to be color-blind, anyways.
The Disability Overlap
Disability overlaps with all of those quantifiable stats. Despite hours of study, researchers identified no statistics on how much venture capital is deployed to disabled-owned enterprises.
“Delegating jobs I wasn’t so good at taught me how to look at the wider picture of building the firm,” Sir Richard Branson wrote in Fortune magazine. Likewise, Elon Musk, the tycoon behind Tesla and SpaceX, recently revealed autism.
These successful disabled founders share gender and ethnicity, with no apparent intersectionality. The State of Women says, “Intersectionality is the premise that oppressive systems interact. Oppression comes in many forms. For example, white women have more difficulties and disadvantages than men, while Black women face racial and gender-based discrimination, making them much more disadvantaged.”
Making disabled persons specialists in fields other than disability is critical to increasing disabled representation and thus money invested in disabled entrepreneurs.
Women VCs are more likely to invest in women-led enterprises, and while data is lacking, it is expected that handicapped VCs will invest in disability-led businesses. An entrepreneur learns this early on.
Funding disabled entrepreneurs is a sensible choice. Disability affects 15% of the population. According to Return On Disa, PWDs are an emergent market the size of China plus the EU.
Other 3.4 billion potential consumers act on their emotional connection to PWD. Their combined annual revenue is approximately $13 trillion. The aging population adds to the PWD count constantly. Their desire to be active in society aligns with the needs of PWD.
Consumers who care about the disability market are increasingly rewarding companies that employ and welcome disabled persons as employees and consumers.
Entrepreneurs are wherever you find them.
There are no real barriers to leadership opportunities. In conclusion, let’s take off our blinders to see the authentic potential in everyone.