Inspirational Entrepreneurs Showing That Theirs Could Be the Ideal Career Move If You Live with A Disability

Unemployment is always an issue for any society – but for those with a disability, it can be even more challenging. The National Council on Disabilities estimates that of the 40-57 million people living with disabilities in the United States, only around a fifth are employed. It’s not all doom and gloom though, and hidden in amongst the statistics are some hugely inspiring stories from entrepreneurs who have experienced real success, in addition to having a disability themselves.

Inspiring others to succeed

Ric Nelson, a 37 year old entrepreneur based in Alaska, is one such example. As a high achieving school graduate with cerebral palsy that requires full-time assistance, Nelson went on to attain both his associate and bachelors degrees in Small Business Management and Business Administration, before completing a master’s degree in Public Administration. His position as Board Chair for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education in Alaska has allowed him to develop unique insight into the issues affecting success in business for disabled entrepreneurs.

There are many types of cerebral palsy, and whilst all affect a person’s ability to maintain balance and posture and move around, the range of support required and ability to carry out tasks varies massively from person to person. Nelson states that entrepreneurship is a great option for anyone with cerebral palsy, as it avoids exposure to any risky complicating factors that affect those who are immunocompromised, leads to far fewer issues with American Disability Act compliance requirements, and allows for effective working at home. This view is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor, which offers support and information for individuals with a disability who would like to become a self-employed entrepreneur.

Celebrating past success

The opportunity for entrepreneurs with a disability to succeed is not a new thing, although it is becoming increasingly supported through modern legislation and funding. David Neeleman, an entrepreneur with ADHD, is the founder of five commercial airlines – beginning his journey to business fame with the establishment of Morris Air in 1984. Neeleman notes that he sees his disability as a positive in this respect, as it allows him to focus really effectively on an area he is truly passionate about – he wanted to achieve his goals, and he has made sure that he has, time and time again.

Christopher Casson is another inspirational entrepreneur who regards his disability as a gift. Aged 35, and on the autistic spectrum, he completed his associate and bachelors degrees in Graphic Design and Computer Animation before setting up his own company, following an internship with a photography studio. Real estate photography is the current heart of his enterprise – an industry which has seen a big rise in digital presence in recent months, and is also well known for needing high quality, professional imagery – and he believes that autism allows him to utilize an unusually high level of focus on his photography, giving him an edge above other competitors.

Building a business awareness 

Casson notes that having a good grasp of entrepreneurial skills is also essential, alongside artistic skills and ability, in order to run a business effectively – and that applies whether you have a disability or not! In order to raise awareness of the strengths of autistic adults in business, he set up ‘Autism to Artism’ in 2018, a movement which aims to eliminate negative stigma, raise awareness, and support others with a disability who are interested in becoming a creative entrepreneur. This view is also championed by Zoe Partington, a renowned Contemporary Visual Artist with sight loss who represents disabled people’s journeys and experiences moving through different spaces as part of her work, changing stereotypes and perspectives in modern society through the ‘art of de-constructing disability’.

When it comes to disability awareness, it might surprise you to know Richard Branson, known globally for his rise to fame as head of Virgin, has dyslexia – a learning disability which makes it difficult for him to read letters and interpret information. Whilst he didn’t do very well at school (his dyslexia was not recognized early on), he soon developed strategies which helped him to get by, and those same strategies have assisted him in becoming the successful entrepreneur he now is. Branson notes that recognizing what he’s not so good at, and knowing when to delegate to others, was vital in his entrepreneurial journey as it gave him the time and energy to focus on the bigger picture in terms of growing his business. For those with a disability who want to pursue a career change, say no to unemployment, or simply use their skills in a way that can make the most of the positive aspects of their condition, entrepreneurship is a real option with many more success stories behind it. With the funding, support, and home-working ethos that has emerged in recent months, there’s never been a better time to explore the available choices and begin your own journey to success.

Ryan Kh

Ryan Kahn, known as a career coach and television personality. Ryan Kahn is founder of The Hired Group, author of Hired!