As I sat in the taxi heading to the job interview, I nervously read over my notes, answering possible questions in my head, and glancing ambivalently at the houses and shops flying past the window. Arriving at my possible place of employment, I thanked the taxi driver, and headed for a dose of fate, or destiny, or failure. After the interview, I left, not with a job offer, but with a decided sense of determination to not ride this merry-go-round of hope and despair; I was going to become self employed.
Discrimination policies in employment were put in place to help minorities have the same chances as your average, middle class, white male ... or so we were told; but there is something not quite right with the process. When you apply for a job and it comes to ticking that little box, declaring either your disability, gender or ethnicity, have you ever hesitated? I have, and I know plenty of other's who have as well; all because of a question mark hovering over your call up for an interview ... are our skills and experience really desired, or is the fact that we have a disability helping employees meet their anti-discrimination quota's?
I get a sense that there are a lot of frustrated people with disabilities, that genuinely feel that their skills and experience are disregarded in the job market because they are seen as purely a number, a tick in a tick box system. Is this frustration giving rise to the growing number of people with disabilities joining the ranks of entrepreneur? Is the independence and freedom that self employment gives the perfect path for those with disabilities to walk down?
I am now walking the self employed path and according to the FSB website, 24% of disabled people in employment are actually self employed, with 45% of these becoming self employed because of lack of opportunity elsewhere. In becoming self employed you get to grab the reigns of your fate and do the work that you want to do - control over your life becomes viable. Being self employed as someone with a disability also allows you work around your personal needs, such as, physical limitations, hospital visits, fatigue, and assistance. For some people it becomes the only choice they have, especially when they have a family to care for, such as Vanessa Heywood from Tiny Mites Music.
Self employment, or becoming an entrepreneur, can be a scary thing, but when you have a disability and you are facing the world with many challenges already, it almost becomes easy, it is just another challenge, though one of your own making, and one with much support if your willing to look for it. There are a growing group of charities and companies out there that are willing to help, both financially and with business mentoring; the best place to start is with Disabled Entrepreneurs, and Leonard Cheshire Disability.
What would be my advice to someone with a disability wanting to start there own business? It would be to have absolute clarity in what business you want to do and how this will look in relation to your day to day life, to find yourself a mentor or Mastermind group for emotional and practical support, and also don't be afraid to ask what funding is available for you. Be brave, be fearless, and be strong, and you can have a job that is fulfilling, but most importantly let's you work with your disability in a positive way.