Disabled Entrepreneurs: The Challenges and the Opportunities


According to government figures, 19% of working age adults in the UK have a disability. Many disabled people face considerable barriers when it comes to traditional employment, so they are increasingly opting for self-employment as an alternative.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE ) conducted a study, ‘Making self-employment work for disabled people’, which found that 611,000 people with disabilities in the UK now work for themselves. This equates to 14% of the self-employed workforce.

The research went on to say that most disabled people choose self-employment rather than feeling they were ‘pushed’ into it, with the most common reason for going it alone being that self-employment, particularly working from home, allowed them to benefit from better working conditions.

What motivates disabled people to become self-employed?

As well as allowing disabled people to work around their health condition and needs, self-employment can also be attractive because it allows people the chance to become financially independent, gives them a sense of purpose and wellbeing, and encourages social inclusion.

Why disabled people make great entrepreneurs

The challenges that many disabled people face in their every day lives help them develop skills and a mindset that is conducive to being a successful entrepreneur. They will likely have greater resilience and resourcefulness, as well as being able to work through difficulties and communicate exactly what they need.

Creating a life they want

So the combination of seeking an alternative to traditional employment and having a skillset suited to entrepreneurship leads some disabled people onto the path where they can create a life they want.

Entrepreneurship can bring with it;

An increased sense of purpose and self-worth: Being part of the community, being able to say they have their own business, having a sense of purpose, being successful (whatever that looks like).

The chance to develop an identity separate from disability: The chance to be seen as an entrepreneur first, rather than being defined by their disability.

The chance to connect with others: Being more involved in the community, and bringing opportunities to connect and network with others.

Flexibility: Being able to choose when and where they work, being able to work around their condition and their needs.

Greater wellbeing: Positive impact on wellbeing , confidence, and self-esteem.

How can disabled entrepreneurs be better supported?

Disabled entrepreneurs need support that recognises the challenges and potential benefits of self-employment for people with disabilities.

Support can not be ‘one-size-fits-all,’ it needs to be tailored towards the individual needs of the entrepreneurs themselves and the diversity of the businesses they create.

Sources of possible support include:

  • Disability support providers like Disabled Entrepreneurs UK, and the Association of Disabled Professionals who can provide guidance and support on the practical side of running a business as well as assisting with things like applications for funding.
  • Practical business training on things like how to set up a business, accounting, marketing, and more.
  • Shared office spaces can be very useful to combat isolation and allow disabled entrepreneurs to work alongside other self-employed people and access support if they need it.
  • Coaching and mentoring is great for helping entrepreneurs stay on track and identifying any gaps in skills and knowledge, as well as offering support and direction on which way the business should go.

Self-employment can allow a level of flexibility, freedom, and satisfaction that disabled people might not be able to get from traditional employment, and with the right support, disabled entrepreneurs can achieve financial independence, get more involved in their community, and improve their wellbeing.

Are you a disabled entrepreneur? I’d love you to share your experience. Please leave a comment or alternatively, join my Good Business Research Group on LinkedIn to read and share research, insights, and information on entrepreneurship.