The productive value of disabled entrepreneurs

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(NNPA)—What is your perception of disabled workers? Consider for a moment that no matter how great life’s perceived challenges be they physical, mental or monetary, the human spirit inevitability drives each individual to prove they are of value.

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Despite all their challenges, more than two million disabled U.S. workers fill valuable jobs daily such as telemarketing, graphic design, teaching, health care, electronic assembly, language translation, pet care and even cooking. Of this group, 13 percent or 260,000 are self-employed entrepreneurs operating home-based businesses.

In fact, more than 55 million or 18.7 percent of the total population in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, reported some level of disability. The unemployment rate of the disabled is almost 17 percent, according U.S. Department of Labor. Of course, as for all entrepreneurs, going into business as a disabled individual is a significant undertaking. Not only is it challenging to obtain financing, but it requires agility, stamina and determination.

Many disabled mentors have achieved goals most never dream to accomplish. In 1933, while completely paralyzed from the waist down, Franklin D Roosevelt became the president of the United States. Stevie Wonder, a blind musician singer, songwriter, producer and humanitarian has won two dozen Grammys. Dr. Steven Hawking, a world renowned theoretical physicist-thinker, among many accomplishments, was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And finally, during his struggles with cancer, Carnegie Melon University Professor Randy Pausch gave his now famous “Last Lecture Series: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” These disabled pioneers are truly an inspiration to us all, demonstrating there are no limits for the human spirit to achieve extraordinary goals.

The majority of disabled workers have impaired sight, mental, audio hearing and back-related problems. Their numbers are increasing and it’s likely the trend will continue as the population ages. For many Americans with disabilities, self-employment and home-based businesses in particular offer empowerment, control and the flexibility to succeed while accommodating their own unique needs that they may not otherwise find in the more traditional corporate workplace.

For less than $1,000, a typical disabled entrepreneur can upgrade their home-based office. Several home-based office concerns include spacing, lighting, Internet communications, easy bathroom access and furniture or chair comfort for long periods. Several federal tax incentives promote the independent lifestyles of disabled people including the Accessibility Tax Credit, Federal Disabled Employment Tax Credit and Elderly Disabled Tax Incentives. These policies are covered under the American Disabilities Act of 1990, Disabilities Education Recovery Act 2009 and The Disabilities Rights Laws.

Building a business, particularly as a disabled person, presents unique challenges, not least of which are attitudinal barriers; the potential loss of benefits; the lack of assets to use as collateral; and perceived lack of access to programs that promote self-employment and small business development.

Despite the challenges, the success rate among disabled small business owners is unprecedented. Just look at this statistic with estimates of upwards of 35 percent of home-based businesses are operated by people with disabilities.

To keep this percentage on the uptick, there are many government and government-authorized resources and financial programs to assist those with disabilities in starting and operating a business.

If you are disabled, other resources to consider before starting a business include: Veteran and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses. Here you will find resources to help veterans start their own businesses and locate government contracting opportunities.

U.S. Business Leadership Network. The only national disability organization led by business for business. Promotes best practices in hiring, retaining and marketing to people with disabilities.

Chamber of Commerce for Individuals with Disabilities. A national consumer volunteer organization that uses business principles to improve the economic status of individuals with disabilities.

Disabled Businesspersons Association. Assists enterprising individuals with disabilities to succeed in the business world.

National AgrAbility Project. Resources to assist people with disabilities employed in agriculture. Finally, all entrepreneurs begin with their unique talents and dreams that can only be fully realized through persistent efforts. There is no magic wand or potion that can make you an instant millionaire. These individual skills have always been within all of us like a sleeping giant waiting to rise up.

Ultimately ,whether disabled or not, success is a choice that can blossom into fertile ground, enabling many productive opportunities. Along the way, it is most rewarding to share these resources by supporting others in finding their purpose.

(Farrah Gray is author of “The Truth Shall Make You Rich: The New Road Map to Radical Prosperity,” “Get Real, Get Rich: Conquer the 7 Lies Blocking You from Success” and the international best-seller “Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out.” He is chairman of the Farrah Gray Foundation. Dr. Gray can be reached via e-mail at fg@drfarrahgray.com or his website at http://www.drfarrahgray.com.)

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