The United States Census Bureau reports that about 15 percent of Americans with disabilities have launched their own businesses, and indications are that this number will continue to grow. Like many people who start successful businesses, disabled entrepreneurs have proven excellent at innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, finding niche markets and specialty businesses for which there is real demand. Grant funding from the Small Business Administration, help from vocational agencies, and a government-supported business-friendly environment have made it easier than ever for disabled parents to succeed in the marketplace, and the internet has opened up an unprecedented range of opportunities.
The first step in starting any business is to develop a business plan. There’s an abundance of resources available to help disabled people write a business plan that will set them on the road to success and help lenders and other sources of funding assess the level of capital necessary for disabled entrepreneurs to make their ideas successful. Remember, the more detailed and forthcoming your business plan, the more likely it is that a hopeful entrepreneur will be approved for financing.
There are several places to look for grant funding for disabled businesses. Begin with the Small Business Association, which can put you in touch with grant information at Grants.gov, GrantsNet, and FedBizOpps.gov. There are also private organizations and foundations that fund disabled business owners. One such organization, the Ability Mission, is an informational resource for disabled businesses, helping them find grants or loans based on their needs. The Ability Mission provides coaching, materials, individual services, and more. As a disabled business owner, you are eligible for personal need grants (which can come in very handy for disabled parents), business grants, and educational grants (also helpful for disabled parents), all of which help put you in a position to succeed as a business owner and as a parent.
The Ideal Office Space
Some disabled people are forced to resign from full-time office jobs because of physical problems associated with their disabilities. Many choose to work in a home office environment because it offers new opportunities for the natural ingenuity and creativity of millions of disabled entrepreneurs. It also keeps you in closer contact with your children, who don’t have to grow up with a parent, or parents, who are constantly away at the office or on the road.
It is essential to locate the right equipment and design an office space that suits your lifestyle while maintaining boundaries between your work and home life. Avoid designing a space that’s too casual, as you need to keep things professional. If you are in a wheelchair, look into setting up a wireless hub that gives you the flexibility of movement as you work from your chair, a desk, or a table. If you work from home, arrange for a separate phone line (or lines) for your office space so that clients and colleagues never get a busy signal. Take advantage of natural lighting as much as possible, or make sure there’s plenty of lamp lighting.
There’s a range of work desk designs that are meant to aid productivity and accessibility for disabled office workers. If you’re in a wheelchair, go with a desk that can be lowered or raised. There should be ample space between your desk and other elements if you’re in a wheelchair. Storage space like file cabinets and built-in shelves should be easily reachable and kept well-organized. Remember, however you arrange and furnish your office space, it should be able to accommodate clients, co-workers, and colleagues comfortably.
Disabled parents face unique challenges that can make it difficult to run a productive business out of their home. Knowing where and how to access funding can be helpful in many ways. And don’t underestimate the importance of establishing a comfortable and productive workspace that separates your work from your home life.« PreviousNext »