July20,2012

Resources for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Pie chart showing that 89% of all businesses in the U.S. are small businesses

By Guest Blogger Megan Totka, Chief Editor, ChamberofCommerce.com

Small business is big business in the U.S. – over 89 percent of all businesses in the country are considered small businesses. Advancements in technology have given entrepreneurs the ability to communicate with clientele and employees with efficiency, contributing to the trend of small business growth. It is now easier than ever to find the right resources to make your business a success!

For people with disabilities, owning a small business provides flexibility that is often missing in big-company atmospheres. In many cases, it means that a person with a disability can work from home and design his or her own schedule.  Hundreds of resources are available through organizations like the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor to get individuals with disabilities on the right track as small business owners. Here are a few factors to consider when you are getting started:

Start Up Financing

Government resources at the federal and state levels do not currently award grants for people with disabilities that are interested in starting a small business. There are several low-interest programs in place, however, that can help get a business on its feet. If you know that you will need some upfront financing, consider looking these at places:

  • State Assistive Technology Loan Programs. Programs vary from state to state but may offer services such as demonstrating how AT equipment works, loaning AT devices to individuals and providing financial assistance in the form of low-interest loans so people with disabilities can buy assistive technology to improve their access to educational, employment and independently living opportunities.
  •  Abilities Fund.  The first nationwide nonprofit community developer and financial institution focused solely on expanding entrepreneurial opportunities, including access to capital, for people with disabilities. This program offers financial assistance options designed to help people with disabilities succeed. The Abilities Fund not only offers advice on how to get started, but also has an online library of resources for people with disabilities who want to start a business.
  • Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Loans and Grants Search Tool. Helps individuals find startup money for their businesses. The search tool applies to people with disabilities, but also has search choices for minorities and women.

Professional Guidance

One of the best ways to succeed in any business venture is to seek advice from others who have done it successfully. There is a lot of information out there for people with disabilities that want some guidance in their business ventures. Several good places to look for mentorship include:

  • Disabled Businesspersons Association. Nonprofit organization provides guidance for people with disabilities who want to become self-employed. Counseling is provided mainly through email and the organization also works closely with vocational rehabilitation specialists.
  • US Business Leadership Network. This business to business program represents over 5,000 companies. It supports career fairs, internship programs and training programs for employees and employers. The organization works to make the friendly for people with disabilities while providing educational tools.

Tax and Regulatory Help

Once a business is up and running, there are some important federal and state rules regarding taxes and practices. It is best to educate yourself on the laws that apply to you and your business long before they come into play. People with disabilities may also qualify for certain tax incentives. For more information, visit:

  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. There are several accessible forms in formats such as Braille and accessible PDF files on the site. You can also look up potential tax breaks that apply to people with disabilities, as well as additional information on services the IRS provides for people with disabilities.
  • ADA.gov. Read through the “Tax Incentives Businesses” guide to find out more about how this federal law can give your business a boost and your rights as a businessperson.

Doing a bit of research before launching a business is a great way to find out what programs can help make your idea a success. The wide array of resources available to small business owners with disabilities are in place to help entrepreneurs have a fair shot at making it. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for more information on how your business may fit into your community.

For more information:

Visit Disability.gov’s Employment section for more resources for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Additional information can be found at https://www.disability.gov/home/i_want_to/self-employment.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. Chamber helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in disability support and disability insurance.

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