THE BLOG

Disability And Business: Doing It For Ourselves

07/08/2017 15:08 BST | Updated 07/08/2017 15:09 BST

Self-employment can be a daunting prospect for anyone, but on top of this, when you have a disability, you are already having to face daily challenges.

Worldwide, it is estimated that up to 1.7 billion people live with some sort of disability. The government's Department for Work and Pensions states that there are nearly seven million disabled adults who are are of working age in the UK.

Some years ago, I was hospitalised for eight months. Not only was this crippling mentally and financially, it also left me virtually unemployable. Deep depressive lows with extreme manic highs have had a huge impact on my personal life as well as my professional career. I am often stigmatised socially because of my mental health and my behaviour can often be perceived as odd.

Globally hundreds of millions of people, with physical or mental health conditions face this dilemma, daily - their issues are not apparent to the outside world.

It may be easier to understand if someone uses a wheelchair. The difficulties that they might face are possibly clearer to their colleagues because the issues are immediately visible. For those with so-called invisible impairments, such as bipolar or epilepsy, it's often a different story. Colleagues may not spot the challenges that they are experiencing, and find it hard to accept that someone with 'hidden' ill health genuinely needs help.

But why should I, and countless other people, give up on our dreams just because we live life with a disability?

Whilst setting up a business is not easy at the best of times, I have found that being able to work from any particular location, with hours that suit my needs, is immensely liberating. Nobody can tell if I am working from the sofa, and it doesn't matter if I am having a particularly bad day as long as I can open my emails, operate my mac - basically get my job done.

Perhaps surprisingly, mania and anxiety can produce great work and spark creativity. Some of the greatest names through history, in terms of discovery and changing the world around us, had a mental health disorder or a learning disability or sometimes both - Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Darwin.

I embarked on an idea I truly believed in. My passion pushes me through the bad times - of which there are many. There have been obstacles along the way, but I have a focus and an appreciation for life that I didn't have before. Working gives me a deep sense of happiness and achievement.

Disability doesn't mean inability. In some ways we can offer advantages over others as we always have to use our initiative, to think outside the box. We are a great potential source of problem solving and alternative thinking.

By breaking down barriers, despite any disability, we raising awareness of our ability to work for ourselves. By enabling ourselves, we are in effect demonstrating not just that we can do things, but how well, building a culture of acceptance.

We are not actually a minority group. There are many of us in the same position. It's time for all of us to have a sense of freedom, and the path to it begins by supporting ourselves through employment.