Monday, 20 August 2012

#Paralympics. #Parabusiness time to get real

The Paralympics show sport has woken up to disability, but not the politicians in the Guardian... supports the general thrust of my argument. I only found it having written the blog below.

So where are the businesses run by people with disabilities?

I would like to put forward an argument.

Business owners with disabilities are forgotten despite their huge potential.
• 19% of the working age population are people with disabilities
• Very few people with disabilities actually seem to run businesses despite the clear correlation between certain disabilities (dyslexia) and successful entrepreneurship

This wasted opportunity is a disgrace.

It is great to see the build up towards the Paralympics. But thinking beyond the athletic events, are businesses run by people with disabilities proportionately represented in the business community?

The Paralympics website talks a lot about diversity and inclusion and yet there is an absence of defining who is or is not a paralympic athlete. Very strange. Surely, the Paralympics celebrates the elite performances of athletes who are disabled or challenged. I think that is the case. It is difficult to know from the website. I had to go to Wikipedia to get a better understanding.

So, enough waffle. My point is pretty straightforward.

According to The Disability Living Foundation (, 19% of the working population are described as people with disabilities - that's 6.9 million people.

If 19% of the working age population is disabled, then, all things being equal, some 19% of small businesses should be run by people with disabilities. This is not the case.

You could round that figure down to 15%. In that case, I would like to believe that some 15% of the 4 million small businesses (ie 600,000 businesses) would be run by individuals with disabilities. Even that is not the case.

Some personal evidence. In the last 10 business seminar events that I ran I saw 1,000 small business people. I am only aware of maybe five individuals who had overtly recognisable 'special needs' (a requirement for disabled access, poor sight and poor hearing issues). So, we could add maybe another 10 or 20 to that number for those people attending who had less obvious needs. Even then we'd only have 2.5% and not the anticipated 15%. It seems that the population with disabilities and small business rarely go together.

I realise that some disabilities are less visible. There is a history of associating dyslexia with entrepreneurship. Articles such as Why Dyslexics Make Great Entrepreneurs argue that the 'disability' may actually be an asset. 

There's even a Top 30 of Dyslexic Entrepreneurs including Ford, Branson, Hewlett, Jobs, Wrigley, Spielberg, Hilfiger, Woolworth, Disney, Rockefeller, Watson, Edison, Roddick, and Bell… not a bad roster. 

Again, the man or woman on the street is probably not aware of what an impressive list this is. It contains six of my business heroes!!! So, some disabilities do go with entrepreneurship. However, I am not sure if being dyslexic qualifies you for the Paralympics.

And now for the big BUT…!!!

It is agreed that the real skill in running a great business is in the thinking, design and planning. Working on the business, not just in it. Spotting an opportunity… marshalling the resources and making things happen. Thinking outside the box. This is probably why dyslexics can make great entrepreneurs. So, leaving out all the possible excuses, I still don't understand why there are not more businesses run by people with disabilities.

In fact, with all this fuss about Paralympics, why isn't there a fuss being made about businesses run by people with disabilities? An opportunity? Certainly opportunities that are being ignored everywhere else...

So much for the Equalities Act and the rest of the rhetoric, it is time for someone to represent and lobby and fight for the opportunity for people with disabilities to run their own businesses.

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