Government grant opens doors for UTS research about entrepreneurs with disabilities

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Preliminary research from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has found people with disabilities have a 50% higher rate of entrepreneurship.

This is why researchers from the UTS Business School will use a $235,000 Linkage Grant from the Australian Research Council to further pursue research into a program that aims to help people with disabilities start their own businesses.

The study involves three major partners from the disability sector, which are directly involved with the research. They includes the National Disability Services, Break Thru People Solutions, and Settlement Services Australia, which has worked with UTS in the past for a study on entrepreneurial refugees.

The research project will co-operate with the recently launched National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to provide support packages to people with disabilities support who are starting their own businesses.

According to the chief investigator in the study, Professor Simon Darcy, the aim of the project is to get people with disabilities “engaged and employed”.

“We’re talking about a group that has been welfare dependent for a long time. We’ll be providing them support and letting them choose their destiny,” Darcy told SmartCompany.

“This gives consumer choice to people with disability, rather than block funding disability service organisations.”

The research grant will also fund further investigation into entrepreneurs with disabilities, with researchers aiming to look at the experiences of these entrepreneurs, the challenges they face, and what has contributed to their success.

“This will give us a much better understanding of whether it was through a variety of systems that already exist, or on their own that they became entrepreneurs,” Darcy says.

The three industry partners involved come from a variety of perspectives and Darcy says they are “directly involved in creating a collaborative approach to the research”.

“We want to find out where the current entrepreneurs with disabilities are – we don’t know where they are or what sort of businesses they are in,” he says.

“It is a watershed time for people with disabilities to control their own destinies.”

One entrepreneur Darcy and his colleagues have already worked with is John Little, who runs online resume writing service Successful Resumes Australia. The business was established in the 1990s, as Little realised his muscular dystrophy would limit his business opportunities in the future.

“I knew at the start of the business that I was getting closer to that day and I thought to myself, ‘What am I going to do when I’m 50, 60, 70?’” Little said in a statement from UTS.

“This was a really good solution – it involved writing and it involved talking to people. It was something I could do using a keyboard and a phone.”

Little’s business has 35 licensed operators across the world and he also is a founder of a wheelchair rental business Wheelchairs to Go.

“Entrepreneurship for people with a disability is really about creating your own opportunities,” Little said.

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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Dominic Powell is a freelance journalist with an interest in technology, startups and music.
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