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People with disabilities continue to face too many barriers in business

It is estimated that one-quarter of entrepreneurs in the UK are disabled or neurodiverse and contribute almost 10% of the GDP to the UK economy (Joseph Williams, co-founder and CEO of Inclusive hiring platform Clu). Nonetheless, the new Disability and Entrepreneurship Report, published by Small Business Britain, and supported by Lloyds Bank, found that disabled entrepreneurs continue to face significant barriers which hold them back, such as having higher startup costs, challenges accessing funding and support, as well as lacking recognition by broader society.

Small Businesses Britain’s data indicated that 51% of disabled founders started their businesses to demonstrate leadership. However, 56% had no external support, 55% had no financial support, and 70% lacked appropriate role models whilst starting up. Despite these structural inequalities remaining in the system, 35% say their disability has positively impacted them as an entrepreneur.

While the narrative around disability can unfortunately feel negative, the reality is that a high proportion of disabled founders consulted in Small Businesses Britain’s research reported that the skills they have learned through their lived experience are extremely beneficial and transferable when founding a business. For example, skills such as adaptability, creativity, resilience, and problem-solving, are all imperative in successfully adapting to disability, as well as being a founder of a business.

However, many people interviewed spoke of the overwhelming barriers too – for example, having to leap into entrepreneurship earlier than needed due to the strain of running a business alongside employment and shouldering additional costs, such as requiring assistive equipment. On average disabled people face £583 on top of regular monthly living expenses, an issue that has only been heightened by the cost-of-living crisis (Disability Price Tag report).

On average disabled people face £583 on top of regular monthly living expenses, an issue that has only been heightened by the cost-of-living crisis. Quote

Furthermore, there are growing concerns that the accessibility progress seen during the pandemic - when work, training and events moved online and became multi-channel – is being reversed with the return to office work and face-to-face exclusive activity.

Considering the economic impact and potential positive impact that disabled entrepreneurs will make on the growth of the UK, Small Businesses Britain and Lloyds Bank have made a series of recommendations for change.

This includes an overhaul in the accessibility and inclusivity of support offered across the small business landscape, encompassing everything from programme design and mode of delivery to language and the look and feel of the content.

They have also recommended the provision of more funding support, particularly in the startup phase, redesigning the entrepreneurial experience for it to be more accessible, increased consultation with disabled founders, connecting disabled entrepreneurs with mentors, and celebrating entrepreneurs and role models within the disabled community.

They have specifically mentioned the need to address disability-related stigma entrepreneurship. The report demonstrates that founding a business as a person living with a disability should be a positive choice rather than one made as a last resort due to employers being unable to accommodate their employees’ needs.

Following Governments launch of its ‘Transforming Support: Health and Disability White Paper’ at the Spring Budget, this report calls for further action to empower this cohort of the entrepreneurial community to reach their full potential whilst unlocking key UK growth opportunity.

Written in collaboration with Léa Beretti (Trainee Clinical Psychologist) and Small Businesses Britain.

Lisa

Dr Lisa Cameron is the Conservative MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

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