36 NEWS FOCUS Disability Agenda UNCOVERED Spot Light on Disabilities There is a wealth of information and support available for budding entrepreneurs - from websites, to business fairs, to books, to business support agencies. But how much support is actually given to disabled1 entrepreneurs (yes, they do exist!)? Colette Machado discusses. I t’s a fact: disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than nondisabled people. Some sources say three times more likely, some say four, some say six and some even say seven times more likely. Whichever one is correct the fact is that alongside race discrimination, sex discrimination, and ageism, disabled people are undoubtedly discriminated against in the workplace. As a result, it is therefore not surprising that in order to survive many disabled people who are still able to work, depending on their disability, find themselves going down the route of selfemployment, with many running their own businesses. For anyone, whether disabled or nondisabled, starting a business is no easy task. However, for a disabled person, both because of their disability (depending on the nature of it) and due to finding themselves in a position of possibly being discriminated, it is even harder. Statistics reveal that there are almost 7 million disabled people in Great Britain. 2 But how many of these are entrepreneurs? And how many of these disabled entrepreneurs are from an ethnic minority? Getting statistics relating to disabled entrepreneurs (regardless of ethnicity) from official sources is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Several calls later and several hours of searching on the internet, I’m still none the wiser. Nevertheless, research revealed that disabled entrepreneurs did need to network together and have their own organisation, which would also open the doors for specific funding, grants, and information to be targeted to members of the group. It appeared that proposals had been put forward for at least two new groups, albeit in London, targeted specifically at disabled entrepreneurs. One was proposed by the London Development Agency called Independence; the other by the Mayor of London’s office, under the name of the Greater London Initiative for Disabled Entrepreneurs. Great news! No, not necessarily so. Following calls to both organisations, the press office were not able to confirm if these had been actually set up and although both promised to “get back to me”, neither did! I wonder why! So what support is really available for disabled entrepreneurs? To recognise and congratulate disabled entrepreneurs, easyGroup Chairman Sir Stelios Haji-Ioanno launched an annual award for an exceptional disabled entrepreneur, in conjunction with leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire.