Australians living with a disability face a combination of big and apparently intractable problems. 2.1 million Australians are of working age and live with a disability. Around 40% of Australians with a disability live on, or near the poverty line. More than 30% of Australians who live with a disability experience prejudice, discrimination and ignorance in the workplace. Australians with a disability are under-represented in the workforce. University graduates with a disability experience longer delays in securing work.
The dominant approach to disability employment is flawed.
For some disabilities, individuals will not know day-to-day or sometimes hour-to-hour if they will be well enough to work. This is incompatible with part-time or casual engagements. This is not the fault of the employers or the disabled workers, but it does leave them economically vulnerable and isolated. The current approach also ignores the reality that for emergent disabilities and progressive disabilities, as well as injury-related disabilities (such as TBI), individuals may have marketable skills, experience and networks.
Comparing Australia to overseas, disability entrepreneurship, relative to non-disabled entrepreneurship is not as high as it is in North America, the UK and Europe. When you drill further into this disheartening situation, individuals often refer to the absence of role models, peer support and resources. This suggests that a community of practice could be a way to address these matters.
Disability entrepreneurship is a potential answer to these problems.
By establishing their own money-generating endeavour, disabled Australians can set the work hours, workspace, duties, roles and jobs best suited to their disability and potential. It also empowers them to escape toxic work environments and build financial independence.
It should also assist them with their business skills confidence, social engagement, sense of dignity and mental health.
That is good news for individuals, their families, the wider community and the Australian economy.