Friday, July 22, 2011

Entrepreneurship and Disability: Where's the focus?

Warning: I'm not going to get too deep, but I may say things others will find objectionable.....

I've been to a lot of workshops, seminars, and events for entrepreneurs.  At those events, I never saw anyone with a visible disability. When pondering that, I began to wonder if any were like me, with a non-visible disability.  Sadly, I began to doubt it because I started thinking about the various disability rights groups and their foci (plural of focus).  Many of those groups focus on Medicaid funds (which many of us do not receive), maintenance of social security benefits (which many of us were denied), research (to eradicate and cure people of the disability) and part-time employment in retail positions and entry-level positions (where those of us with college degrees don't work).  There are some that focus on entrepreneurship, but it's on a microenterprise scale and limited to certain industries (the push for clean tech, environmentally sustainable businesses and tech start ups are not the focus).  All this pondering led me to the following questions:
  • Where does this leave people with disabilities in a changing economy?  
  • Where are they to get the information that is given to their peers who do not have disabilities? 
  • How can people with disabilities form start-ups in growing industries such as biology, health care, green industries and technology?  
  • Are universities and colleges advertising their hiring partnerships to those with disabilities who are not registered with their disability resource center (Dept of Labor campaign)?
  • Are the universities and colleges with incubators and accelerators encouraging those with disabilities to join, state their ideas and create businesses beyond the microenterprise level?
  • When entrepreneurs are creating devices and apps for people with disabilities, are they paying their focus subjects or bringing them in as partners?
  • Why aren't disability rights organizations and disability specific groups advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities into high growth fields at management levels?
  • When I read blogs decrying the actions of politicians in taking away so-called "entitlement" benefits, why aren't I reading blogs from people with disabilities decrying our lack of participation in and outreach about Start Up America?
  • Should type of disability matter (visible vs internal, developmental vs acquired)? Note: If you answered, "yes", then you failed the test and should read ADAA (the reauthorization of the American with Disabilities Act and the definition of disability).
  • Is a lack of perceived need for accommodations what keeps me in the loop, while locking others out?

Again...just a few questions I pondered.  

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