What is ‘disability entrepreneurship’ and why have I not consider such a concept before?
Out of all the questions that are continuously on my mind, these two are most predominant lately.
I find it interesting that entrepreneurship has entered my life in such a powerful way. I feel that everything I do on a daily basis is somehow directly connected to entrepreneurship — whether it be the podcasts I listen to in the morning, the articles I read and engage with for my master’s studies, the dozen of emails I receive throughout the day from other entrepreneurs, or the instagram profiles I scroll through before heading to bed.
I think it is accurate to say I have completely submerged myself within that lifestyle.
I am learning from other entrepreneurs. I am inspired by new ideas on this journey. I am fulfilled, finally.
But. There is a missing piece.
It seems that something is always missing — and this time it is quite significant.
I am currently working towards the completion of a scoping review, where I am compiling existing literature pertaining to disability and entrepreneurship — ultimately analyzing research and systemic gaps within this realm.
I always enjoy delving into research projects, whether it be for research assistantships, business purposes, or course work.
But I am currently thriving in a different way as I work through this scoping review. I honestly believe that it is because I am finding tangible takeaways from the readings that I can actually start applying in the near future.
I started going through the bulk of my readings a few days ago, and encountered the concept of ‘disability entrepreneurship’ for the first time.
And at that moment, I became inspired in an entirely different way.
It was then that I discovered what that missing piece mentioned earlier truly was.
As a disabled womxn, I know all about contemporary research and service delivery gaps.
Trust me, I live through their repercussions on a daily basis.
Perhaps I am simply immune to them.
That makes complete sense — right?
But even so, why did I not consider the very obvious gaps in entrepreneurial initiatives and opportunities for disabled folx?
Well, that is not entirely accurate.
I did recognize gaps during unsuccessful searches for personal development books pertaining to disabled entrepreneurs, or when the only mention of disability on my favourite entrepreneurial podcast was from the host when she listed the ‘typical’ characteristics of disabled entrepreneurs — and being “able-bodied” was among them.
There is an underlying discourse that prevents disabled folx from accessing certain entrepreneurial communities — and it has not yet been demystified.
(Let us keep that for another blog post.)
I thought, however, that such gaps were only apparent to me as a relatively new entrepreneur.
I would tell myself that perhaps I did not input the correct keywords in search engines.
Or that one day I would stumble upon services and supports geared towards disabled entrepreneurs…
— and that everything would eventually, and somehow, make sense.
Through my readings and analysis of academic literature, I realized these gaps I was noticing were actually recorded by researchers and scholars alike.
But it was not just me. It was stated within academic research. And that was the validity I needed.
The reason I could not find appropriate resources and support was not a result of being a new disabled entrepreneur and not knowing where to seek them.
Rather, it was because they simply did not exist.
And to me, this was the most revealing part.
But wait, that is not all.
I am still especially intrigued by the reality that most literature I have engaged refers to programs, resources, services, and supports based within other countries — not in Canada.
The young academic in me longs for a logical explanation.
The disabled entrepreneur in me is very confused.
Because it just does not make sense. It simply does not add up.
I am heavily involved within disability communities throughout Canada and I know a ton of influential organizations who accomplish wonderful work. I do not understand why the important niche of disability entrepreneurship is still not yet valued — or if it is, why is there no evidence stating otherwise.
Disability entrepreneurship recognizes that programs and support must be tailored to the diverse needs of disability communities. Typical enterprise incubators and networks may not have access to resources so that they can most adequately and meaningfully guide disabled entrepreneurs.
Disabled entrepreneurs may need additional and specific support to apply for loans, participate in pitch competitions, and write a business plan.
Such services, for instance, may not be readily available for disabled entrepreneurs without the presence of centres and organizations ascribing to methods and theories from disability entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurial opportunities are essential in generating income for disabled folx who cannot AND/OR may not hold sustainable employment otherwise.
That is why initiatives and research pertaining to disabled entrepreneurs must be generated within the realms of both academia and community-based development.
So that disabled entrepreneurs have access to tools and achieve success within their own fields.
So that centres and organizations providing support to entrepreneurs can become further diversified.
So that the workforce in Canada further represents the capacities and needs of various communities.
So that contemporary society recognizes the ways in which disabled folx can actively and meaningfully contribute within their own communities.
But we are not there yet, and I anticipate a long journey ahead.
Did you know? I am an Accessibility and Disability Consultant
Through Chloée Catherine Consulting, I help business owners, corporations, private entities, and the travel industry foster inclusive spaces within their own environments. Visit thinkbeyondaccess.com for more information.