June 3, 2022
New report highlights entrepreneur opportunities for people with disabilities
The National Center on Self-Employment, Business Ownership, and Telecommuting has issued a report identifying ways Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies can enhance business-ownership and self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities, especially those categorized as having the most significant disabilities.
About 9.6 percent of individuals with disabilities are self-employed, nearly double the rate of those without disabilities – 6.4 percent. However, only 1.7 percent of participants in VR programs achieve self-employment as a form of successful, competitive integrated employment.
“Self-employment is one of the most customizable employment strategies for employing people with disabilities,” said Joseph Jones, executive director for The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Self-employment is well-aligned with current economic trends in the U.S. – including the gig economy,” Jones said. “It also offers vocational rehabilitation agencies a creative and flexible way to increase the employment of people with disabilities, including those categorized as having the most significant disabilities.”
The Harkin Institute authored the report, Understanding the Provision of Self-Employment for People with Disabilities in the United States, on behalf of the Center for Self-Employment and Griffin-Hammis Associates, a leading international expert on training and technical assistance around disability employment.
For the study, researchers gathered and summarized self-employment policies from 73 state VR agencies representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report found that broad differences in policies and implementation strategies among VR agencies has led to unequal barriers to access to critical services needed to create economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
“Despite the powerful opportunities associated with self-employment, historically it has been significantly underutilized throughout State VR Agencies. This paper offers critical insight and concrete recommendations to open the door for more VR participants to explore these options across the country- regardless of their background or disability label,” said Beth Keeton, Executive Director of Griffin-Hammis Associates and Principal Investigator for The Center on Self-Employment, Business Ownership and Telecommuting.
The report identified four key opportunities that VR agencies can pursue to increase equitable access to self-employment services, including:
- Implementing self-employment tools and guides that allow for more nuanced, individualized exploration of self-employment possibilities, realities and risks.
- Ensuring access to technical assistance to identify business concepts, conduct market research and develop business plans as a component of the Individualized Plan for Employment.
- Providing training and technical assistance for VR counselors overseeing self-employment cases.
- Developing self-employment funding policies that meet federal regulations and better align with those for wage employment services.
This paper was produced through U.S. Department of Education funding under the Innovative Rehabilitation Training program, PR/Award #H263F200005. In the current fiscal year, Griffin-Hammis Associates received $450,000 in Federal funds and provided an additional $50,000, or ten percent of total project costs, in non-Federal contributions under this program. A full copy of the report can be found here.
National Center on Self-Employment, Business Ownership, & Telecommuting is a national project funded in 2020 to develop and provide training for Vocational Rehabilitation counselors and professionals. Its goal is to increase self-employment and telecommuting access and outcomes by building the knowledge and skills of rehabilitation professionals. The center is administered by Griffin-Hammis Associates.
“This paper was produced through U.S. Department of Education funding under the Innovative Rehabilitation Training program, PR/Award #H263F200005. In the current fiscal year, Griffin-Hammis Associates received $450,000 in Federal funds and provided an additional $50,000, or ten percent of total project costs, in non-Federal contributions under this program.”
Griffin-Hammis Associates is a considered one of the leading international expert organizations in offering training and technical assistance around employment for people with disabilities including self-employment, social security benefits planning, job development, and customized employment. The organization is considered a pioneer of microenterprises for people with disabilities, having assisted approximately five hundred successful small businesses to date. GHA shares from a rich history of supporting providers of employment services to build capacity and achieve high-level employment outcomes.
GHA is the primary and “go-to” source of information on self- employment. They have been instrumental in developing best practices, essential resources, and widely utilized policy that has advanced the development of self-employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University exists to inform citizens, inspire creative cooperation, and catalyze change on issues of social justice, fairness, and opportunity. Founded on the premise that good policy is best achieved when policymakers have access to high quality information, political processes are open and well-understood, and citizens are informed and active participants, The Harkin Institute offers programming, experiences, research and connectivity focused on areas that defined Senator Harkin’s career: labor and employment, people with disabilities, retirement security, and wellness and nutrition.