Guest Writer: Erica Francis

Published Jul. 24, 2017

Guest Writer: Erica Francis

People with disabilities often turn to self-employment opportunities because they find it is easier to build accommodations into businesses they design themselves. As Kim Cordingly, self-employment lead consultant for the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) explains, people with disabilities tend to customize their businesses and activities to meet their needs, and they often turn their self-employment opportunities into small businesses that employ other people with disabilities. While it is important to keep in mind that a person with disabilities can do any job and start any business in any industry they want, it also is true that there are some business ideas that people with disabilities tend to pursue more than others. If you are a person with a disability who wants to take the plunge into business ownership, consider some of the following ideas.

1. Entrepreneurship

People with disabilities often become entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas that have fewer job opportunities. According to the Department of Labor, the U.S. Census shows that people with disabilities are almost twice as likely to be self-employed as the general population, and they enjoy having the independence and opportunity to make business decisions for themselves and set their own pace and schedule.

Many people with disabilities also find themselves starting businesses based on their experiences; many of them start companies to meet a need or fill a gap that they found in their personal lives. For example, Bob Douglas became the president and founder of the National Center for Therapeutic Riding as a result of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And, Fred Cherry founded Cherry Engineering Support Services, Inc. after becoming a prisoner of war and sustaining multiple injuries.

If you are considering becoming an entrepreneur, there are programs available to assist people with disabilities in achieving that dream. For instance, the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People and Disabilities Project (CEED) helps and supports people with disabilities pursue entrepreneurship. JAN is another resource for people with disabilities who want to become entrepreneurs; it provides individualized technical assistance, consulting, and mentoring services and offers self-employment and small business development expertise on a case-by-case basis.

If you live in the Olympia, Washington, area, you can find a great deal of support via Community Resources. This small business helps adults with disabilities set goals and achieve them via social networking opportunities, community classes or college classes, and community and professional networking opportunities.

2. Start a Home Business

People with disabilities often find that running a business from home ensures they have the accommodations and modifications they need to achieve success. They also find that it keeps overhead low and provides them with the flexibility they need if they have several medical-related appointments. People with disabilities also prefer to start and run a business from home because they are in familiar, comfortable settings and do not have to navigate to a new part of town or worry about transportation challenges.

Paul Nicol, founder of iCAN Experiences, started his new business in his home when he started losing his sight: “Running this business from home was the obvious thing to do. It is a familiar environment, so I was comfortable navigating my way around the office and I don’t have far to go to work. It is easy to work a couple of hours longer in the evening if I need to, and I can choose to start an hour or so later in the morning, depending on family commitments and other things that I have to do. My home is the perfect business location for me.”

3. Work within Your Niche

Many people with disabilities find business success when they start a business that involves pursuing their interests and working within their niche. For example, if you are an artist at heart, pursue your art and set up an Etsy business. If you have strong written and communication skills, become a freelance writer or editor. Careful Cents offers tips for aspiring writers if this sounds like an ideal fit for you.

People with disabilities often find that starting their own business is the best way for them to achieve success and independence. If you are considering becoming a business owner, look into entrepreneurship opportunities and resources, consider starting a home business, and try to work within your niche.


Erica Francis may be reached at for additional information.

Related resources:

• Kim Cordingly,  -

• Department of Labor, -

• Bob Douglas -

• (CEED)  -

• Community Resources.  -

• in his home  -

• Etsy business -

• Careful Cents  -