December 2020, Vol. 6, No. 8
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers
Business Ownership and Entrepreneurship

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing…”
- Walt Disney

We all have heard of Walt Disney, founder of the Disney Company, perhaps the largest entertainment empire in the world. Disney loved to draw and took art classes as a boy. His first job was as an illustrator. The rest is history. He got famous by pursuing what he loved, and by taking some risks.

What few know, is that Walter Disney was very shy and insecure. He also had dyslexia. In this issue of RAISE, we explore options for business ownership and self-employment for people with disabilities.

Self-employment is a popular choice among people with disabilities. The Small Business Administration reports that 14.3 percent of people with disabilities started businesses – a larger  percentage than the general population, where 12.2 percent start a business.

According to Alice Doyel, author of No More Job Interviews: Self-Employment Strategies for People With Disabilities, there are 5 advantages of self-employment for people with disabilities:

  1. Work activities that fit personal interests and capabilities
  2. Control of the company
  3. Workplace supports and accommodations to meet needs and enhance success
  4. Connections with other community business members
  5. Long-term employment with the opportunity for personal growth
Want to learn more? Check out this video from Cary Griffin, of Griffin-Hammis Associates and Rural Institute at University of Montana. He provides a basic overview on starting a small business, what to expect, and how you state VR system and the Social Security Administration may be able to help.

Collette Divitto loves to bake and wanted a job making cookies, but faced rejection. Today, the Boston native owns Collette’s Cookies. The goal of her company is to create jobs for other people with I/DD.

Did it make you hungry?

scam alert icon, yellow diamond-shaped warning sign with exclamation mark and text "scam"

While working from home and starting a business sounds like a great idea, there are pitfalls and dangers. People with disabilities and others looking for work-at-home opportunities find money-making strategies that sound “too good to be true.” Fraud, scams and deception are rampant.

Tools that Work icon wioth hammer and screwdriver

We turn to the Virginia Commonwealth University for guidance on self-employment. Through an emerging practice called “Discovery,” job seekers with a disability can use the framework of customized employment to help identify the kinds of self-employment opportunities that are a good fit to their own skills, interests, talents and desires.

Learn from Business Owners: Challenges and Opportunities
Listen in as self-employed owners of small businesses who have a disability describe what it is really like and how they got started.

The video panel discussion was moderated by Kait Masters, Community Development Manager for HoneyBook and Rising Tide.

Topics of conversation include:

  • How disability influenced their decision to start a business.
  • How business owners can be more inclusive and accommodating to clients with disabilities.
  • What reasonable accommodations look like and how to start facilitating change.
  • The importance of community for people with disabilities.

For those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Social Security’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program may help pave the path to success in self-employment.

The TTW program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security Disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and who want to work. The program is free and voluntary. It helps people move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce, including self-employment. Ticket to Work connects people with free employment services to help them decide if working is right for them, prepare them for work, find a job or maintain success while working. Participants receive services such as career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and job placement and training from authorized Ticket to Work service providers, such as Employment Networks (EN) or your State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency. The service provider the student chooses will serve as an important part of their "employment team" that will help them on the journey to financial independence.
The TTW program offers access to a wide variety of free services, including an Employment Team.

The team can help youth develop a business idea, write a business plan, and find funding to help you start a business. Along the way, they can also provide guidance and support, like identifying accommodations.

As the student’s business grows and begins earning income, a Benefits Counselor can help them understand how their earnings will affect cash payments, Medicare or Medicaid and any other benefits.

Two important programs that can help:

Social Security Work Incentives. Learn more >>

PASS (Plan to Achieve Self Support) may help youth set aside resources to help start a business. Learn more >>

Learn more about Ticket to Work >>

Or call 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

Students need skills to start a business. Here are some considerations as you guide youth in developing IEP Goals:

Stage 1 — BASICS
Students should experience various facets of business ownership. At this first stage the focus is on understanding the basics of our economy, the career opportunities that result, and the need to master basic skills to be successful in a free market economy. Motivation to learn and a sense of individual opportunity are the special outcomes at this stage of the life-long learning model.

Youth will learn to speak the language of business, and see the problems from the small business owner’s point of view. This is particularly needed in career and technical education. The emphasis is on beginning competencies that may be taught as an entire entrepreneurship class or included as part of other courses related to entrepreneurship. For example, cash flow problems could be used in a math class, and sales demonstrations could be part of a communications class.

At this stage, youth take time to explore business ideas and a variety of ways to plan the business. Although, it is still only an educational experience, youth must gain a greater depth and breadth of knowledge than they may have from previous stages. This stage encourages youth to create a unique business idea and carry the decision-making process through a complete business plan. The best programs enable students to actually experience the operation of a business as well. This stage may take place in advanced high school career and technical programs, two-year colleges where there are special courses and/or associate degree programs, and some colleges and universities. The outcome is for youth to learn how it might be possible to become an entrepreneur and to practice the processes of business.

Stage 4 — START-UP
After youth/young adults have had time to gain job experience and/or further their education, many are in need of special assistance to assemble a business idea. Community education programs focusing on business start-up assistance are widely available in career and technical programs, community-based assistance programs, community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities. The U.S. Small Business Administration sponsors many of these training programs.

Stage 5 — GROWTH
Often, business owners do not seek help until it is almost too late. A series of continuing seminars or support groups can assist the entrepreneur in recognizing potential problems and how to deal with them in a thorough and timely manner. Many community colleges and continuing education programs at universities or colleges offer such seminars and workshops for their business community. They recognize that the best economic development plan is to help the community’s existing businesses grow and prosper.

Source: Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education

This information appears in the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth's Road to Self Sufficiency: A Guide to Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities. A link to the full guide also appears in our RESOURCES section at the end of the newsletter.
Circle icon with books on a shelf graphic
SCORE small business hub can provide free local support to young entrepreneurs considering starting their own business. SCORE’s mission is to foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education. With the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs since 1964.

There are more than 300 local chapters across the nation. They offer recorded webinars, courses on demand and live programs.

Resources En Español:
Con más de 50 años de experiencia, SCORE ha recopilado los recursos que necesita para que su pequeña empresa sea un éxito. Nuestra misión es apoyar a todo los empresarios de los Estados Unidos.

Griffin-Hammis Associates offers support and training on self-employment and can help coordinate resources. The website is packed with resources and information, including guidebooks, and information on business planning. They offer consulting service to help coordinate funding through Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, Social Security Plans to Achieve Self Support (PASS) and Individual Development Accounts (IDA).

Want more help? Cary Griffin (of Griffin-Hammis) has published a book on self-employment for People with Disabilities.

Small Business Association’s mission is to maintain and strengthen the nation's economy by aiding, counseling, assisting and protecting the interests of small businesses and by helping families and businesses recover from national disasters.

The US Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy has a great section of self-employment and entrepreneurship.

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth offers this guide, The Road to Self-Sufficiency: A Guide to Entrepreneurship for Youth to Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities. The Guide is a resource for organizations working with youth on career exploration and employment options, and policymakers by showing how entrepreneurship can be used in their programs.

Kyann Flint, disability advocate and activist.
Advocate and activist Kyann Flint reminds readers that “disability drives innovation…” Read her full blog post on universal design and the need to redesign the employment narrative.

"For years, the disability community had advocated for this work-from-home structure, but until organizations were driven by the health benefit of society as a whole, the request for this accommodation did not seem viable. We now see that working from home is indeed viable for those who desire this option."
ICYMI: RAISE Presents “Youth Leadership & Engagement”

12/16/2020: Ticket to Work and Mental Health

3/8-13/2021: Council for Exceptional Children L.I.V.E. (Learning Interactive Virtual Event)

3/17-19/2021: 18th International Virtual Conference on Positive Behavior Support

Griffin-Hammis Associates offers online training in Self-Employment

Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.
Executive Editor:
Josie Badger
Visit our Website:
RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.
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RAISE is funded by the US Department of Education to provide technical assistance to, and coordination of, the 7 PTI centers (RSA-PTIs). It represents collaboration between the nation's two Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and the seven Regional PTIs.